Never has dragging your dead father’s corpse around been so much fun
Hauling a casket around in search of a sepulchre befitting of an avaricious king doesn’t sound like the most joyful premise for a game, yet Chariot is a delight from start to finish. While the gorgeous aesthetics and charming voice acting establish an instant appeal, it’s the originality of this platformer’s core traversal mechanics that live longest in the memory.
In defiance of platforming canon, Chariot casts a princess – alongside her doting and obedient Fiancé – as the unlikely lead. At the behest of her recently deceased father (King), Princess must drag King coffin’s through a sprawling network of lava-ridden tunnels, frozen caverns and overgrown mines to seek out a crypt that matches up to his exacting standards. King’s delusions of grandeur and rapacious disposition ensure that this quest won’t be as easy as first imagined.
After the deluge of monochrome platformers last year, Chariot’s popping colours are a refreshing sight
To manoeuvre King around the environment, Princess can simply push the chariot up and over obstacles or tether herself to the casket with a rope and hoist it up – lengthening or shortening the rope works in similar fashion to a climber belaying a partner up a wall.
At first, the chariot feels weighty and you might start questioning whether this conceit is to the detriment of fluidity. However, these fears quickly evaporate when you begin to understand the myriad ways your late father’s inertia can be manipulated to scale the terrain.
Playing into the central theme of Chariot are life and death paths (thin platforms) that preclude objects of the opposite polarity – that is to say, the casket will pass straight through life paths as if they were invisible and vice versa with respect to the living characters. This gives rise to some interesting scenarios where these conflicting paths intersect, forcing you to abandon the chariot momentarily as you map a route through the maze.
In the later levels, these death paths have a propulsive quality that causes the chariot to skate along its entirety. At one particular juncture you’ll have to abandon the casket and let it channel along an upwards arcing path, before catching it in mid-air by virtue of floor-mounted springs.
Chariot does a particularly good job of organically introducing new ways in which to exploit the physics of the chariot and rope tether. Although some of these tricks are literally signposted, others you’ll have to intuit as the need arise – which is rewarding in itself.
o-op is brilliant, manic fun – just as it used to b
To aid Princess and Fiancé in their expedition, you can equip them with gadgets and upgrade the chariot. Chariot upgrades are predominantly passive effects that provide you with a means to access previously off-limits areas – for instance, Winter Wheels allow the chariot to roll over snow, while Dragon Plating prevents King from being immolated upon coming into contact with lava.
Gadgets, however, are more versatile – although not necessarily essential – augmentations that can expedite your passage through the catacombs. The first gadget added to your arsenal is Peg. Peg, as the name suggests, fixes the chariot in place, enabling Princess to move independently without fear of losing her next of kin. In this way you can craft a makeshift rope swing to bridge large gaps.
Gadgets are purchased through The Merchant, but only if you possess the requisite blueprints that are hidden within each level. This writer’s favourite was the Attractor gadget – a magnet that serves as a failsafe, pulling the chariot towards you before it plummets into the abyss.
This attention to detail extends to the presentation. From the phosphorescent, blooming undergrowth of the first sepulchre to the glistening stalactites of the frosted caverns, Chariot is a game with a strong visual identity.
Screw up to the point of no return and you can respawn at these liberally placed checkpoints.
The animations are a joy, too – laced with a charm that permeates throughout. Watch for the resigned looks on the couple’s faces each time the King gives a scornful appraisal of yet another substandard burial site.
Frima Studios have continuously stressed that to get the full Chariot experience you’ll need to convince a friend to pick up a pad and assume the role of Fiancé. Indeed, there are certain parts of each level that house treasures only reachable through co-operative play.
With two players pushing and pulling the coffin of their own accord it’s redolent of a classic Chuckle Brothers sketch. It’s chaotic fun in a mould that’s largely disappeared since the advent of online gaming but has seen a revival of late with the likes of Towerfall: Ascension. Nevertheless, Chariot is still an engaging single player experience that’s well worth the admission fee. Just remember to hold X to pay your respects.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Failing to coordinate in co-op to hilarious effect.
Beautifully detailed environments.
Platforming feels fresh.
Missing out on loot in singleplayer.
Only being allowed to equip one gadget feels restrictive.