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Hail to the Chimp
Score: 95%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: Gamecock Media
Developer: Wideload Games
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 4; (1 - 4 Online)
Genre: Party/ Online/ Themed

Graphics & Sound:
Hail to the Chimp is a very entertaining title, with more than you might expect. Sure, at its heart, it is a presidential election-themed party game comprised of several different flavors of mini-games with cel-shaded graphics that give it a very animated and cartoon-y appearance, but Wideload went to great lengths to breathe life and a heavy dose of tongue-in-cheek comedy into this game.

The game takes the form of a presidential election to elect the new replacement for the Lion, who quickly evacuated the post amongst a storm of speculation, rumors and scandal. That leaves ten unlikely candidates eager to take his place: Santo (the artistic Armadillo), Daisy (the youthful Platypus), Murgatroyd (the enigmatic Jellyfish), Bean (the world's most energetic Sloth), Ptolemy (Hippo who thinks the 70's haven't ended), Floyd (Walrus/Guru/Dock "worker"), Moxie (Musk Ox), Crackers (Chimp), Hedwig (Polar Bear) and Toshiro (Octopus). Each of these characters are over-the-top cartoony, animated characters, as are the supporting characters in the GRR (an animal-based spoof of CNN... "Grrr"... get it?).

The locations that the games are played in are cartoon-esque and feature various active hazards and devices that you can turn on to mess with your opponents. Activating these devices usually cause danger in some part of the location (you don't want to be there when they activate), but these can be incorporated into larger strategizations, if you think about how they affect the gameplay.

The voice acting is done well, throughout the game. The news headlines that Woodchuck Chumley keeps spouting off are numerous and entertaining in their own right, as are the commercials and interviews. I find myself wanting to watch several before launching into a new game.

It's a free-for-all of animal-on-animal, no-holds-barred campaigning, so, pretty much like your average presidential election, only with more candidates. The gameplay here is primarily variations on a theme. The main thrust is that you want to collect the clams that are scattered around the level. When you encounter another candidate, you can punch them to disrupt them and cause them to drop some of their clams. Some games are really not much more deep than collecting a whole lot of these clams. Others introduce various twists to this concept, such as having you cash these clams in for campaign contributions, or requiring you to pick up numbered clams in numeric order or even forcing you to collect a large amount of clams, only to give them away to other candidates to prove how "charitable" you are. Of course, since you're punching the other candidates and forcing your clams on them, you don't really look all that gregarious, but the other animals don't seem to notice.

In addition to fending for yourself and trying to "clam up" as much as possible, there is the ability to team up with other candidates. What happens when two characters team up depends on which two characters are doing the teaming up, but it's generally something that helps them demolish the other two players, while gaining a bit themselves. You can team up with whoever you want, as long as they accept the team-up, but it's generally a bad idea to team up with the front-runner, as you should be trying to increase your position, without increasing his. You are free to choose who you want to team up with and whether you want to at all, but the announcer in the game will actually suggest team ups when one player is pulling out ahead of the rest.

In its intended usage as a party game, you'll be playing other people, either all in the same living room or online against opponents elsewhere. When playing against others, the difficulty is highly subjective to the other players' abilities.

That having been said, you can play a single player mode (Campaign mode, of course) or play a multiplayer game, but only use one PC player. Either of these options will result in a single player pitted against three computer-controlled opponents. I find that, in general, the computer opponents are pretty stiff competition; they're not impossible to beat, mind you, but they can prove challenging - at least until you find a strategy that works really well for you on a particular level for a particular game type.

Since you're likely to play against others a lot in Hail to the Chimp, I highly recommend practicing a lot if you find your skills to be less than you would like. Study the levels and ponder the game mechanics behind the different game types. Some level / game type combinations present strategies that will give you a real edge if smartly employed. Be careful though, while a computer opponent might not catch on to your tricks, another player is bound to figure your strategy out and find a way to use it against you.

Game Mechanics:
The graphical style in Hail to the Chimp is an interesting one. Yes, it's cel-shaded, but if you look closely at the "fill" textures when characters are moving around or cameras are moving (especially during commercials, interviews and other entertainment content that's not in-game, where the filled areas are larger), you will see that the fill texture actually moves independent of, well, everything else. It seems to slowly move in a circle on the screen and it also moves with camera movements. This adds a strange effect to the appearance of these animations.

The GRR interface with Woodchuck Chumley and all of his news story headlines are hilarious. Combined with the news crawl at the bottom of the screen and the candidate interviews and advertisements that play, they are so entertaining that I will literally sit there for several minutes just watching them. The On-Demand feature that lets you select and watch these animated shorts (the commercials and interviews, that is) is nice, since it never fails that the best ones come on when Psibabe has left the room for a minute. This feature lets you play your favorites "on demand," as the name implies.

The game itself is probably not quite as entertaining as the animated content, but it is quite fun to play and provides the opportunities for team-ups and pratfalls, making it an excellent party game. Since the characters were created for this game and, as such, don't already have a rabid following, Hail to the Chimp will never be able to top the Mario Party series. However, Hail to the Chimp was released at a good time; with the 2008 U.S. presidential election nearing, Hail to the Chimp may be the perfect party game for any political parties you may plan to attend on election day.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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