Earlier this week, during a meeting with representatives from Gamecock and Wideload, we had an opportunity to spend some time with a work-in-progress version of Hail to the Chimp. The game, which we first got our hands on during this year's E3 Media & Business Summit, is a collection of at least 15 minigames (at least one more is currently under consideration) that poke fun at the world of politics at every opportunity. The 10 playable combatants in these games are all candidates in the animal kingdom's first presidential race, and it hasn't taken them long to figure out that democracy means winning by any means necessary. We had an opportunity to check out five different minigames during our meeting, most of which we hadn't seen previously.
Before we talk about specific minigames, it's worth mentioning that all 15 of them have similar themes and can be played on the same 10 maps. To varying extents, all of the minigames task you with collecting clams, which represent voters and, as such, are the closest thing that Hail to the Chimp has to a currency (and a unit of health measurement). Although there are no teams as such, characters can form temporary alliances and pair up with each other at any time, which is another thing that all of the games have in common. The special moves available to each pairing are different, but all are very powerful and can be stopped at any time as soon as one of you decides that the other has served his or her purpose. The characters' individual attacks also vary a great deal--hardly surprising when you consider the differences between a chimp, an octopus, a hippo, and an armadillo--but all are controlled in much the same way. The games we played during our meeting were as follows:
The level is littered with yard signs, and you need to advertise your campaign on these signs. Each yard sign is hooked up to its own lever that will cover the corresponding yard sign with your slogans and such when you pull on it. There's a delay between the lever being pulled and the sign changing, though, so you're constantly having to decide whether you should stick around to defend signs you've already claimed or take a chance by going after additional ones. Incidentally, each sign has two boards, so if two characters are paired up when they hit the lever, they get one board each.
Clams are everywhere, and your mission is to grab as many of them as possible, then avoid attacks from opponents that will make you drop them. Whichever player has the most clams on his or her person at any time gets to wear a crown. That's not a good thing, though, because the crown's only real purpose is to let the other players know who they should be going after. The winner is the first player to wear the crown for a cumulative total of two minutes.
This is definitely one of the more insane minigames that we've seen thus far. Large, spherical mines are dropping from the sky that you need to avoid both as they land and, a few moments later, when they explode. The clams you pick up in political minefield games are your health, so the more clams you have the more damage you can withstand. Animals can fight among themselves while the mines fall, of course, and as the game progresses, the number of mines falling increases dramatically until it's almost impossible to find a safe spot anywhere.
Hack the Vote
Where Political Minefield has you avoiding objects falling from the sky, Hack the Vote tasks you with reaching them as quickly as possible. The falling items are voting machines rather than mines, and you'll score 1,000 points for each one you destroy. The machines can invariably withstand at least two or three attacks before they blow up, though, so even if you're the first to reach one, it's unlikely that you'll claim the points without first having to fight off your opponents.
Stuff the Ballot
This one is definitely our favorite of the bunch. Each candidate has a ballot box somewhere in the level and must fill it with a specific number of clams as quickly as possible. That means you have to go fetch clams from the free-for-all area and then get them back to your box without dropping them as the result of an attack en route. Clams are also your health, so when depositing them into your box, it's a good idea to hold a few back, otherwise you'll be killed the next time you get attacked and will be forced to sit out the next five to 10 seconds.
While playing the aforementioned games, we noticed that a number of purely cosmetic items, such as wigs and sunglasses, were appearing at random intervals. These, we're told, are "flair" items that can be used to customize your characters in much the same way that you might customize your favorite combatants in recent Tekken and Virtua Fighter offerings. They won't appear in levels quite as often in the finished game as they did in our preview build, apparently, so there's sure to be plenty of competition for them when they do. Some of the games 150-plus flair items will be rare and, in some cases, only available to players who have met certain criteria. An online "flair trade" system will give you a chance to swap items with friends, though you'll have to be online simultaneously.
Last but not least, we simply have to mention Hail to the Chimp's storyline, which will be told through a series of broadcasts on the animals' GRR News Network, anchored by the charismatic Woodchuck Chumley. GRR looks to be a fully featured news channel--at least as much as you'd expect from a network that broadcasts only in between minigames. There are correspondents who explain the rules of upcoming games, interviews with the presidential wannabes, and even a number of amusing commercials that can be viewed "on demand" via a Direct-TV-style interface once you've unlocked them.
Hail to the Chimp is currently scheduled for release in the second quarter of 2008. We'll bring you more information on the game as soon as it becomes available.