The name “Chubbins” is not exactly one to inspire confidence, but plenty of great games have had odd names; alas, this is not one that subverts expectations. The mechanics are simple and at times fun, but far too much brings down the experience. It’s an all right game, but one that is generally unremarkable and, with awful presentation and some sincerely frustrating segments, it is hard to recommend.
So what is Chubbins? In a sense, it’s a 2D platformer. You play as a rotund rabbit who is trying to bounce his way through forty levels. The mechanics are incredibly simple: there are a bunch of blocks and, depending on where and how fast the arrows on the blocks are spinning, you will bounce in that direction and that high. As the player, you can move left and right. That is it. That’s all you have control over.
As with so many other games with simple mechanics, a lot can be done with them. You’ll have to time when to jump over or under a moving enemy. You’ll avoid mines, using power-ups to become invincible against certain types of them. Some blocks move while others disappear for a few seconds after jumping on them. After the beginning set of levels, which serve as tutorials, most levels do something different with the mechanics, keeping things pretty fresh.
It is not always successful, though, but it’s also not often unsuccessful. It generally is just not designed in an interesting way. The level designs feel incredibly basic and simple; they are not bad, but they aren’t bursting with genius, either. The game’s mechanics could have been used for consistently fun ways to overcome obstacles, but almost nothing is a surprise. It is unimaginative and not creative. Plenty of people will certainly like its by-the-numbers, predictable approach and how they stick to standard genre tropes, but personally, I found it to be something of a bore. Though they did different things with the assets they created, nothing feels very unique in the first place.
There are two difficulty modes. If you play on “soft,” the game has check points and is, for the most part, an average experience. If you play on “hard,” the game loses check points and you will wind up doing the same levels over and over again. On soft mode, the game employs a trial-and-error type of pacing where, if you fail a challenge, and you will fail fairly frequently, you can get right back to where you messed up and try again using different tactics. It is again not filled with especially imaginative level designs, but at least it usually moves along at a fast-enough pace. The same is not true for hard mode. Every time you die, you go back to the beginning of the level and that means a lot of sheer frustration. Those who love attempting the same level over and over will enjoy this, but most will want to stick with soft mode — at least for the first playthrough
Occasionally, the designers do something interesting. They make an exciting set of challenges that feel sincerely enjoyable and intense. Other times, however, the game does the opposite with sincerely annoying designs. These are sequences that rely far too much on luck, where the timing of your bounce is just wrong for making it past an obstacle and here’s basically no way to fix it, and there are sequences where it simply is impossible to win without knowing what comes next. One moment like this had me stuck for almost an hour. There isn’t an overabundance of these sections, but there are far more than there should be.
There are forty levels total, including the bosses, split into five worlds. Unfortunately, there is no level selection: you have to play an entire world in one go. Once you beat a world, you can access specific levels via time trials, but you cannot unlock levels in that way, so if you ever want to leave the game mid-world, be prepared to do everything over again. There are bosses in the game and, in some respects, they are pretty well done. They make ample use of the game’s mechanics, but are extremely basic and, like the rest of the game, are either boring, fun, or unfair.
Visually, the game is not impressive. For a small team, in some ways it is impressive technically. But the characters wound up being neither endearing nor cute and the blocks are plain. Everything feels plastic and not in an intentional way. The backgrounds are not bad, and surprisingly detailed, but neither are they anything special and worse, they clash awfully with the foreground. At times, they even feel disorienting the way they are animated. It all simply looks and feels wrong. Musically, it is none too pretty. At best, it is completely unremarkable; at worst, it is downright bad. The sound effects are even worse. Every time you bounce, it makes the same exact annoying noise. Every time an enemy bounces, it makes that same exact annoying noise. It can become actually painful to listen to at a certain point, especially if you keep dying at a place with a ton of enemies, hearing the same music and death noises and bouncing sounds over and over and over and over and over — it isn’t pleasant to listen to in the slightest. Let us just say, this is a game you will want to put your own choice of music over.
I can see what the developers were trying to do and they almost come close to delivering: make a simple yet challenging, endearing game. As it stands, Chubbins is a fairly average experience with rare moments of intense excitement and rarer moments of intense frustration. Sadly, the bad visual style and music, plus the painful grind that the sound effects quickly become, makes for a game that is less than good. There are undoubtedly some out there that will enjoy the core gameplay enough to overlook the many faults and, in a way, I was one of those people. I did glean some enjoyment from Chubbins and you might, too, because if you don’t think too hard, it can be just dumb fun — and masochists will certainly like hard mode. I cannot recommend this game, though, especially not for the asking price of six dollars. That’s a shame, because it really does have potential — just not much of anything else.
- Gameplay is simple, but clever
- Sometimes the challenges are well designed
- Average level design
- Challenges sometimes rely on luck, not skill
- Painful sound effects
- Mediocre music
- Uninspired visuals