About once every year, there is always one game that gets released that simply surprises me. You know: the type of game that sure does look interesting at first but doesn’t seem to be incredible but end up being a total blast. Last year, this game was Super Meat Boy. In 2009, it was Final Fantasy XIII. So far this year, this game might as well be Benjamin Friedrich’s Chester, a great platformer available for the Xbox LIVE Indie Games on the Xbox 360 (and part of the Indie Games Summer Uprising promotion).
At its core, Chester is ridiculously simple: go from the beginning of the level and make your way to a cupcake. Of course (like it is the case with most platformers), enemies and traps are waiting for you in each of the game’s 20 levels. To help you out, Chester is gifted with many abilities such as jumping (and double-jumping), shooting projectiles, and wall-jumping. Better yet, you can change between 10 different characters on-the-fly, each of them playing differently as well as having a unique special skill. For example, Chester (the “main” character) shoots fireballs in a straight line and is capable of slowing down time, while Chesty acts more like a weird version of Luigi in Super Mario Bros. 3 (shooting fireballs and not jumping so high). Every character has their strengths so switching between all of them does make a difference, which is quite awesome.
Sounds good so far? Well hold on, there’s a lot more! When you start playing Chester, you only have one character unlocked. Unlocking the other characters involve either exploring levels to find secret icons or reaching a specific cumulative number of stamps collected (which act as “coins” in this game). This is rather interesting as you always are working towards something and are even rewarded for taking your time for exploring levels extensively. There’s also collectibles that can be collected throughout each level that unlock a “special something”. Furthermore, every character can be levelled-up by killing enemies. Every additional level grants your character with new or enhanced abilities (faster shots, better shots, better jumping or running, etc.). In addition to all of this, the game can be played by players of pretty much any skill, thanks to the four difficulty levels ranging from “way-too-easy” to “simply suicidal”. To summarize, the game plays really well and offers quite a lot of content to keep you hooked for a long time.
Not only is Chester a blast to play but it also looks nothing short of stunning. Every level is greatly detailed and beautifully drawn. Just like the characters, it is possible to change between multiple level art, including sketches drawn on lined-sheets, 8-Bit style, LCD display (resembling the old GameBoy’s graphics). Better yet: every single art style drastically changes how you will perceive a level for some reasons (that I’m not able to explain).
The game’s audio, while not being as awesome as its visuals, is quite good. The game’s “smooth and relaxed” music does not stress you out but does manage to get you inside the game’s universe. Also, the sounds are really weird but still feel right in place as the game’s world being quite strange. However, some sounds do feel a little bit out of place since they are either too loud or just does not fit with what is happening on screen.
As no game is perfect, Chester does suffer from some minor hiccups. First of all, double-tapping down on the thumbstick to drop down from a platform really gets problematic throughout the whole game as you can accidentally double-tap and drop down into a bottomless pit. This is rather annoying when you’re about to complete a level on the highest difficulty and fall into a pit because of this (as there are no checkpoints on this difficulty). Also, I would have loved to have just a few more levels since getting through the game is not that long to complete (let’s keep in mind that the developer is working on some new FREE content though). However, the most annoying aspects of Chester are the little bugs you can encounter here and there: enemies disappearing, enemies getting stuck in the environment, backgrounds flickering). All of these elements should never be present in a “final” version of the game. Still, the game does not suffer too much from it.
Despite all the bugs found within it, Chester is a great game. You will find yourself playing it for multiple hours to get through each level on every difficulty setting, unlock every character as well as levelling each of them to the maximum. The level design is great and the environments and their different styles are simply stunning. My verdict on Chester: it is my favourite game from the Indie Games Summer Uprising promotion and one that you should buy.
– Beautiful and original environment changing system
– The unlocking/level-up systems are totally original and different from other games
– Great level design
– Multiple difficulties for every kind of gamer
– The gameplay does not always feels tight enough for the complex levels
– Multiple minor bugs that get annoying to encounter
Game experience at time of review: Game cleared (all cleared on “D” difficulty except the last 6 levels), over 12000 coins obtained.
Chester is available on the Xbox LIVE Indies Games channel for the Xbox 360 for 240 Microsoft Points (3$USD). It is also scheduled to be released on the PC in the future.