Ultimate Chicken Horse for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One is a new release, but the original version of the game made its debut for PC over a year and a half ago. For this reviewer, playing this game was my first interaction with the title, and my first time experiencing the frenetic gameplay therein.
First and foremost, this is a party game and is at its best when playing local multiplayer. When played on its own in a solo-player challenge mode the game loses much of its appeal. This is a game which is meant to be enjoyed with more than one player, and the more the merrier.
Players take on the role of a farm animal, and in party mode will work on constructing a path from one side of the map to the other, at the same time making the path as complicated and deadly as possible. Points are given for successfully making it to the other side, collecting coins, and for trapping and killing your opponents. The gameplay is often a little chaotic, and the controls could be a lot tighter and more precise. For a modern game platformer, the physics are at times a bit haphazard and hard to rely upon behaving in a predictable manner. The game could be a bit more helpful in setting up the rules and walking players through the scoring, and it can make the first few turns a bit frustrating. However, once you get a handle on it, it’s fairly easy to start messing with your opponents while also trying to ensure you can figure out a strategy to successfully complete the level. When playing for the purposes of this review, I found myself enjoying the balance of the game, as there are more than a few ways to get points, and it was easier than I expected to come from behind and win a round (much to my own chagrin, as suddenly my wife pulled ahead to take the win as a result of collecting as many coins as possible as her goal). The rounds are fast-paced, and the more players means more chaos, as the screen gets busier and busier, with many more obstacles blocking one’s path.
As much chaotic fun as the game might be for local multiplayer, it loses much of the fun when it comes to online multiplayer. The game plays the same, but it definitely loses some the whimsy when you’re not playing with friends and family. It drops an aspect of the personality of the game which at first made it seem so endearing. Matchmaking isn’t the simplest, either, and on numerous occasions, the gameplay didn’t seem to make a smooth transition to the online world.
If you were hoping for an enjoyable solo experience you’re not really going to find it here. The challenge mode is often more frustrating than enjoyable, as players load community-designed and uploaded levels. Some are seemingly built to be impossible, but for the most part there’s a decent array of levels. But when you’re just trying to complete levels that were put up in a series of speed runs, it takes away the more entertaining element that is evident in party mode. What makes the single-player mode feel even more lacking is that it doesn’t manage to give the player a way to play solo, but still enjoy the frantic level-building that is experienced in local multiplayer. Presumably it would be harder to program an AI to replicate such an experience, and instead the developers focused on the challenge mode instead of replicating the local multiplayer gameplay for the solo gameplay experience.
The game definitely encourages the player to try their hand at designing and playing their own levels, and uploading them for others to play. If this is your cup of tea, your overall enjoyment of Ultimate Chicken Horse will be substantially higher than this reviewer’s. If this scratches your gamer itch, it definitely makes this an easy game to recommend, and more worthwhile given the price.
The graphics are simplistic, with a stripped-down aesthetic that really works for the game. Ultimate Chicken Horse doesn’t need to have sophisticated and highly polished graphics, and it actually works better with a more simplistic style. When building levels frantically, the art design is appropriately simple. When starting levels, there’s little on the screen, but it just allows more room in which to cram all of the implements you need to provide your competition with difficult obstacles.
The music is subtle, and the sound effects are very on point and satisfying. When a trap is unleashed and kills your opponent, the sound effects accompanying the carnage definitely allow you to relish in the mayhem.
If you’re looking for a relatively inexpensive PS4 party game, Ultimate Chicken Horse is definitely worth trying out. If you can get it for a discount (which likely will come at some point) and you like level building I would heartily recommend it. However, If you’re not going to be able to make use of the local multiplayer, it definitely makes this a tougher game to recommend. As a game designed for local multiplayer, Ultimate Chicken Horse succeeds and then some. With the right gamer personality, it becomes a game of one-upsmanship, as differing playstyles start to clash in enjoyable ways.