Chariot
Gameplay 9
Graphics 9
Sound 9

While Chariot might look like a typical platform title, the added challenge of lugging a coffin on wheels around with you everywhere makes a big difference to how it plays. Making the experience even more entertaining is the inclusion of the local co-op mode where teamwork is required to escort the dead king to his final resting place. Thanks to its quirky gameplay and solid challenge it’s hard to beat Chariot, but you had better make sure that you have a controller ready.

Gameplay: Great in single player and even better when played with a friend helping out.

Graphics: Very polished and the cartoon style visuals are quite charming.

Sound: Nice tunes and great voice acting

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Chariot

Developer: Frima Studio | Publisher: Frima Studio | Release Date: 2014 | Genre: Indie / Adventure | Website: Official Website | Format: Digital Download

After shuffling his mortal coil, the remains of a king is taken to his final resting place by the princess and her fiancé. Unfortunately for them, the ghost of the king pops up out of his coffin to inform them that he is not pleased with the sepulcher they have chosen for him. What follows is a journey through some vast cave systems in order to find a suitable resting place for the demanding monarch. This task is made even more daunting by that fact that the heavy coffin of the king, which is thankfully on wheels, has to be dragged along everywhere. Platforming games are nothing new, but when you have to content with a coffin on wheels it opens up a whole new set of challenges.

Your goal in Chariot is very simple, drag the coffin of the departed king to the exit of each level until you find a sepulcher that will satisfy his demands. There are 25 levels to traverse, spread across five different underground environments, but the physics based gameplay means that this game is definitely not a walk in the park. Things start off relatively simple as you pull or push the coffin along, but soon you are required to maneuver the thing across obstacles that would have been tricky even without a dead weight slowing you down.

Although the game can be played on your own it is at its heart a couch co-op experience. Playing with a friend at your side completely changes the dynamics of the game and while it doesn’t always make the puzzles easier it does make the mishaps a lot more entertaining. It also gives you someone to blame if the chariot goes careening down a slope because you forgot to attach your tether to it. Despite the rather grim plot, Chariot is actually quite a charming title with plenty of humor. The late king is anything but quiet and will frequently inform you of his displeasure while you jostle his remains around.

Although the main goal is to reach the exit, you can also collect treasures, hidden skulls and blueprints along the way. The blueprints unlock gadgets or chariot upgrades, which can be purchased from a rather jolly skeleton that you encounter between levels. Only the chariot can collect loot, not your character, so if you want to grab the treasure you’ll have to maneuver the coffin close to them. The result is scenarios where your character might be standing on a platform while lowering down the dangling chariot in order to get it close enough to some big gems that are embedded in the side of a cliff.

As you move the chariot around it can make noise, which has the disadvantage of waking up slumbering monsters. Although these critters can’t harm you directly they can assault the chariot and run off with your hard won loot, so you’ll want to keep your exploration as quiet as possible. This is easier said than done though as it is all too easy to drop the chariot or bump it into things. Although monsters can’t kill you, hazards such as lava and quicksand can. You must also stay within sight of the chariot at all times and a timer appears if you get separated. If by the count of zero you are not reunited with the chariot it is back to the nearest checkpoint. This is where a second player to watch your back comes in very handy as it is easy to drop the chariot down a chasm or watch it plunge down a steep incline through one careless mistake when you play solo.

If Chariot simply featured a selection of straightforward levels it would not have been half as challenging or entertaining. Instead, the levels are all sprawling affairs where, if it wasn’t for the helpful map, it would have been easy to get lost. Handy markers point the way, but you can still stray off the beaten path to try out harder routes or tackle the co-op only sections if you have a friend helping out. After reaching an exit you unlock other entrances that allows you to return to a level and search out new routes in order to find the blueprints or hidden skulls. You can also unlock speedrun challenges for the levels, so overall there is plenty of content which means the value for money is definitely high. The gadget blueprints can make your life a little easier by providing goodies such as the ability to tether your chariot to a platform or drop an exploding canary that can get rid of enemies. All of the gadgets can be upgraded by finding more blueprints, but you can only bring along one gadget with you at a time to any level. The chariot upgrades are a little trickier to procure as these involve finding a sealed box that must be loaded on to the chariot and then transported to a machine to open it. Unlike the chariot, the box cannot be handled too rough our turned upside down for too long or it will detach, which requires you to trek back to where it was found and try again. The chariot upgrades are the only way to access new levels with obstacles such as darkness, lava, snow or quicksand.

Chariot employs 2D visuals, but bucks the current trend of using retro or pixelated graphics. Instead it uses sharp, clear character sprites with some great animations. Coupled with the vibrant use of color and the detailed level design the game achieves an almost cartoon like feel. The levels are all themed around a certain style which keeps things fresh. It’s the small touches that really make the visuals stand out, such as the expressions on the faces of the characters and the enticing glint of the gems. There are also “death rails” that can only be traversed by the chariot and “life rails” which is exclusive for players. The former requires you to either hitch a ride or dangle along while the latter will see you pulling a dangling chariot along. For the death rails spooky little skulls pop out while the life rails features fresh new blooms sprouting up as you move across it. The audio is very fitting with some suitably medieval sounding tunes, but the highlight is the voice acting. While the main characters remain silent, the king and the skeleton are both brilliantly voiced and hearing their quips never becomes grating.

The store page lists a controller as highly recommended and I am inclined to agree. Attaching your rope to the chariot using the R2 button and hoisting yourself or the chariot up using L1 just works better than struggling with a keyboard. As platforms become smaller and timing more crucial during later levels you really need the greater precision that is offered by the analogue controls. Chariot is quite a challenging title and while the checkpoints are placed quite fairly it still takes many tries to overcome some of the obstacles. You’ll quickly have to learn how to press down in order to kick in your characters heels and prevent them from getting dragged down by the coffin after jumping on to slopes. Using momentum to your advantage is also a crucial skill and making it across a tricky set of obstacles is immensely rewarding. The only part that I felt was a bit annoying was the trampolines, which because of the physics used by the game can be a little unpredictable.

While there is nothing that prevents you from enjoying Chariot on your own the most fun is definitely to be had in multi-player. Unfortunately there is no online multi-player, but because of the physics engine used by the game this is understandable. For a challenging, but entertaining local co-op experience you can do far worse than Chariot. It has buckets of charm, a stiff challenge and remains entertaining throughout.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows Vista
  • Processor: Dual Core 2.5 GHz
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: ATI Radeon HD 4850 / NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Hard Drive: 3 GB available space
  • Additional Notes: Notice: We highly recommend playing Chariot with a controller.
  • OS: Windows Vista
  • Processor: Dual Core 2.5 GHz
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: ATI Radeon HD 4850 / NVIDIA GeForce GTX 260
  • DirectX: Version 11
  • Hard Drive: 3 GB available space
  • Additional Notes: Notice: We highly recommend playing Chariot with a controller.

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