IGN Review of Hail to the Chimp
The lion (apparently the only one) has gone missing, and the animal kingdom is without a leader. What's a group of furry creatures to do? With the reigning leader out of the way, the animals decide to elect a new ruler. From a hippo to a sloth to a squid (which technically isn't an animal), a representative from most walks of life steps up to the podium to pitch their platform to attempt to become the new "king" of the animal kingdom.
It's an interesting idea, but that's pretty much the only interesting bit you'll find throughout the entirety of Hail to the Chimp. What sounds like it would make for a good setup to some sort of satirical and political strategy game is actually nothing more than a party game consisting of 16 mini-games. Unfortunately, these 16 mini-games are nothing but variants on the main goal of collecting clams in each level.
You'll always play with four characters in a stage, be it with three CPU players or up to three other human players either on a single console or online, and you'll run around each area collecting clams. Some games have you collect the clams and deposit them in a poll box. Some have you collect the clams and then, after having at least ten, go and pick up money from fat cats on the board, and some will have you collect the clams and then give them away to other players.
Regardless of the game type, the goal is to run around, collect clams, and then do something with them. While each of the game modes is technically unique, they're not nearly as different as the games you'll find in most any other mini-game collection. Indeed, many of the modes start to blend together and you'll feel like you're doing the same thing over and over again.
In any of the game modes, you can of course fight your opponents to knock the clams they're carrying from their hands. This does mean that in games where you have to deposit or give away clams, there's a bit of strategy in whether you want to drop off what you have to protect your stash, or run around and grab stuff before someone else gets to it. Unfortunately, the fighting system feels cheap thanks to the fact that the computer will undoubtedly gang up on you and you have no chance against more than one opponent.
The AI has plenty of other issues that give you a distinct advantage in some cases, however. Sometimes they'll get stuck and just run at a wall until something dislodges them. In one of the modes, where four cats on a stage are selling newspapers with bad press about you on them, you need to pick up a large, yellow Dirty Tricks clam and carry it to the papers to eat them. The AI largely ignores the Dirty Tricks clam entirely and will just walk right past it time and time again. It seems like anytime the computer actually picked it up, it was only because it was in its path by circumstance. There wasn't a single time that I played this mode that I didn't completely dominate the opposition.
Likewise, one of the stages, Ring of Fire, has a lake of lava that rises at certain times and will burn and kill anyone on the lower parts of the level. The computer is very poor about getting out of the way and will get killed time and time again by said lava.
All of the AI issues aren't a problem if you're playing a game with four human players, but that doesn't help the terrible control scheme. Each of the ten characters has different traits, so they all control differently. Some of them are incredibly slow and make running around and collecting clams a real chore. Some of them can barely jump, making getting from place to place a pain in the ass. But worst of all for everybody, the game's collision detection makes navigating some spots on many levels very frustrating. The opening section, Watergates, has bridges that are very touchy to climb on. You have to be in just the right place or it won't work.
What's more, there are plenty of presentation issues here. For every five clams you pick up, the game will mention that you've gotten to said number (five, ten, fifteen, etc.), but there's no count on the screen otherwise. When clams get knocked out of your hands, you have no idea how many you have left. In one of the games, you have to stuff clams (ballots) in a box, and whoever has the most clams in a box will rack up time for said box. There's no counter to show how many clams are in a box, giving you no idea how far ahead or behind you are. The list of missing clues goes on and on. How were things like this overlooked?
Confusingly, the main Campaign mode in the game doesn't let you choose a character and then try to get them elected. Instead, you play through ten stages, each assigned to a certain character, with a handful of rounds each. You have to win each primary in order to progress, so all you're doing is helping each character win one spot. Why you aren't able to take a character through the ranks to get elected, and then do it again with a different character for a second play through is beyond me.
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