Chicken Wiggle is the first game to come out of the new indie studio Atooi for the 3DS platform. While the studio has a new name, the developer behind it is well known for playing a major role in the creation of big indie hits such as Mutant Mudds and Xeodrifter. Players familiar with those series will definitely see notes to those games in this new title, Chicken Wiggle.
One disclaimer before we get to the review – as I’ve been working in the indie scene for a few years now I’ve naturally made some friendships along the way. One of those friendships is with Jools Watsham, the developer behind Chicken Wiggle and the company Atooi. I strive my best to give a fair review for consumers but some may claim it is impossible to completely remove any bias brought upon by a friendship. That said, I think the opposite may be possible where I may be overly critical in trying to provide a friend with as much constructive criticism as possible. So with that in mind, here is my review of Chicken Wiggle.
Before we step into the gameplay let’s go over the game’s presentation in both audio and visuals. Upon booting the game, players will be welcomed to one of the game’s wonderful tracks. Throughout my playthrough of the game I couldn’t get over how incredible the game’s soundtrack is. It’s a retro style soundtrack just like the art style but it still manages to carry so much emotion like the classics of the 8bit and 16bit era. Going alongside the game’s great tracks is a beautiful retro art style. If you’ve enjoyed Mutant Mudds or Xeodrifter’s art styles then you’ll feel right at home with Chicken Wiggle. The colors are bright, the backgrounds have enough diversity to avoid coming across as bland and the sprites have plenty of charm and personality.
Onto the gameplay – there are two modes: “Story” or “Create”. In “Story” mode you chase after a witch who stole your chicken friends across several worlds along with your newfound friend: a worm. Then in “Create” mode you can go ahead and build any level you want ala Mario Maker and share it with your friend – only sharing is more friendly here than in Mario Maker 3DS. Story mode is the bulk of where I spent my time playing as I personally don’t find much enjoyment in creating levels.
In “Story” mode players take on 48 levels broken down in 8 worlds each with distinct themes. There are 6 levels per world which are all pretty straight forward in their playstyle having you rescue a chicken at the end. As the protagonist chicken you can jump, peck or launch your worm to pull yourself to ceilings, walls etc. The controls are great and never get in the way of the player and the chicken, something I expect as a standard from all new platformers these days. There really shouldn’t be an excuse for bad controls in platformers after 30 years of the genre being around but I suppose one should never take anything for granted.
While the controls, visuals and audio are all great the game really falls flat in the diversity of its content. Each level has a different look, but they all feel rather the same. They each take roughly 2-5 minutes to complete and offer a mediocre challenge or experience for advanced players. There are bonus objectives like finding 100 “gems” in each level and the three letters that make up FUN but even that didn’t provide me with much fun. The majority of the gems are in plain sight and feel more like a guide to show you where to go with about 10% being hidden away in pretty obvious hiding places. The 3 letters are usually pretty easy to find as well with minimal searching effort.
The real downside however to playing any of these levels however is that I don’t feel like there are any incentives. The game provides no obvious reward or incentive for collecting the gems or the FUN letters. Granted I didn’t collect them all in the game so maybe something only activates after a player completes everything but I don’t feel incentivized to do so. Something as simple as a % gauge to show how much of the world you’ve completed or even a bonus world or level that unlocks when you acquire a certain amount of gems/letters would have been enough. But no, the only thing players see is a golden corner added to the level select tile when they’ve collected everything.
Completionists aside, even the main story offers very little incentive to keep playing the game. The opening cinematic shows a witch running off with a bunch of chickens but then she’s never seen or heard from again until the final stage. Some may say you don’t need much of a story when it comes to platforming games but I disagree. Reminding players of their quest or having them wonder what will happen next is part of the drive that keeps me playing a game and wanting to know what happens next. In Chicken Wiggle all I expect from the following level is more of the same mediocrity.
It’s a shame really because the game has the characters and mechanics to do so much more but never seems to hit its potential. Every now and then a special item will be thrown into a level such as the ability to fly, peck through any wall or turn into a ghost. I was pleasantly surprised whenever one of these items were introduced to a level as it really changed up the gameplay. However it almost feels like they’re thrown into a level here or there as a showcase so players can then go into the “Create” mode and create their own level around that ability.
As I mentioned earlier I didn’t spend much time with the editor but I can appreciate the effort that went into giving players the tools they need to make whatever level they want. The editor is very intuitive and great to work with. For players who enjoy making their own 2D platforming levels, they will find great value in Chicken Wiggle and probably lose a ton of hours experimenting with different level possibilities. For someone like me however that only wants to play a fun 2D platforming story, there just isn’t enough to keep me engaged.
To bring it all together, Chicken Wiggle definitely feels part of the Mutant Mudds and Xeodrifter family but more like a little brother that hasn’t fully grown up yet. It has charm but lacks key elements to keep players engaged and invested in its main characters. Where the game really shines is in its presentation and as a game maker thanks to its excellent “design and share” level editor. If you want to play around with your game design skills I’d recommend this title but if you’re looking for a fun and challenging 2D platformer there are just too many better ones to recommend on the 3DS.