Coming from the makers of the wonderfully imaginative Samorost games, Chuchel continues the static screen environmental puzzling of its predecessors. Instead of the weird sci-fi stylings of Samorost, however, Chuchel takes place in a colourful world that looks and feels like a kid’s cartoon. Full of grotesque and cute characters and buttons, levers and objects to push, pull, and manipulate, Chuchel’s quest for a tasty cherry has more imagination in each screen than many big budget games demonstrate in their entirety.
The most obvious place to start with Chuchel is with its vivid artstyle. Utilising the full spectrum of bright colours and exhibiting a lovely crude hand-drawn aesthetic, the inhabitants of Chuchel are all chock-full of character. All of the weird and bizarre creations feel like they belong and, as with Samorost, Machinarium and Botanicula before it, the overall effect is of an impressively cohesive and well designed world. This unity of vision is one of the most impressive parts of the game, and perfectly complements the gameplay. Interactive objects are generally easy to spot but don’t feel shoehorned into the scenes either. The result is a true feeling of playful exploration, where each click is generally rewarded by a suitable animation, whether successful or not.
The upbeat cartoon style extends to the game’s music as well, ensuring that it always feels like you’re playing one of those surreal and silly animations that draw on the lasting legacy of the Looney Tunes. Sound effects are brilliantly realised, whilst the ‘voice acting’ conveys character well too. Chuchel’s frustrated warblings fit him perfectly as he is constantly prevented from eating his beloved cherry. It’s highly reminiscent of Scrat from the Ice Age films constantly chasing his lost acorn, and as a gameplay mechanic, this loop of disappointment works really well and you soon begin to share Chuchel’s insatiable desire for delicious fruit.
It should be clear that I loved Chuchel and found myself smiling far more than is natural for such a jaded and cynical old man. Almost every one of the game’s 30 screens contains numerous opportunities for experimentation and offers the potential for a range of cute and funny animations. The only negative is that it is clearly a very short experience. Completing the game and getting the achievements is possible in just a couple of hours. Whilst this sounds slight, the ratio of fun to gameplay time is much more impressive, and I’d certainly choose Chuchel over many more substantial games. If your main criteria for a game’s value is its length, though, Chuchel is not for you.
With all this being said, one of the most interesting things about Chuchel is how difficult it is to summarise in written form. Unlike many other games, where discussion of the mechanics and controls can occupy several paragraphs of insightful commentary, here the controls are delightfully simple as you click away with your mouse. Every screen has a number of interactive objects or characters and to progress you need to puzzle out the order in which to prod, poke, push, lick, jump on them. Some screens contain hints in the background whilst others simply need you to work your way through the options. There are a vast amount of individual actions to perform and an accompanying range of reactions.
Most of the time I found myself delaying the correct action in order to see every possible response, almost the complete opposite of how most games are meant to be played. The stripped back, immediate response approach to gameplay is the antithesis of the epic, movie inspired blockbusters that dominate the gaming landscape. I enjoy the more outwardly ambitious titles too, but it’s refreshing to play a title that concentrates on a simpler approach.
Every minute of Chuchel’s short playtime is filled with delight and almost every interaction is guaranteed to make you smile. It is a distillation of interactive fun that is the best example of Amanita’s design philosophy so far. Chuchel is the total opposite of the games that dominate contemporary gaming and as such, deserves to be hugely successful. Just check out the trailer above and try to resist the charms of the little dustball of fun.