This game is fun, challenging, and creative at it’s most basic level, yet when you have all four players engaged and truly locked in it becomes something else entirely.
The premise of Ultimate Chicken Horse is simple enough. At it’s core it is just a video game version of the classic playground staple Horse. Try to do something that your opponent can’t. But where Horse is a back and forth game, one player goes and then the next, Ultimate Chicken Horse is a game where all players are engaged at the same time.
The game is just a short level. There’s a start and finish line and you’re only objective is to get from one point to another. The difficulty arises in figuring out a way to do that. A gaping chasm awaits you, forcing you and the other players to build a makeshift bridge of sorts. The bridge needs to be good enough to get you to the finish but hard enough so that your opponents fail.
During my appointment at Pax I played though three different levels and each sparkle with the creativity and genius of a madman. Black holes, chainsaws, punching plants, trap-doors, and more are just some of the tools at your disposal to stop your foes from reaching the finish line.The true brilliance of the game though is that it is these very same terrifying deathtraps that are also the way across. Figuring out the exact spot to land on each and every contraption is a work of art, the weight of the characters on screen giving you just enough time to make tiny adjustments mid-air.
Before each new round begins players are given a collection of different objects to choose from. Do you pick a black hole an in effort to screw over everyone else(and possibly yourself) or do you pick a simple plank of wood to help build a path towards the finish line. The risk/reward of each and every choice and the way the game continually builds on each prior decision means a choice made a dozen moves ago can come back to haunt you. You are in the same stage for an entire match so all of your prior devices are still active, still going. This adds a wonderful twist on the classic formula of Horse and forces players to think about what exactly they want to add to the rapidly growing menagerie of items filling up the screen.
Ultimate Chicken Horse’s status as a standout party game of the future seems secure to me. There’s just something timeless and pure to the game. Something frantic and frenzied about how it operates and how kinetic the gameplay is. On the floaty side with it’s controls, you immediately understand and can master this game’s systems, allowing it’s devilishly fun and madding experience to take root and leave behind lots of laughter, a few sore losers, and perhaps a smashed controller or two, just like any good couch co-op game.