Chariots. They’ve been around for centuries to act as a vehicle for the transporting of goods and people, as well as instruments of war. Yet there will also have inevitably come a time when they’re used to transport the recently deceased within their coffin from one location to a final resting place, and it’s for that use which you’ll be using the chariot in the game called Chariot. This rather challenging platformer centres around a prince and a princess taking the recently departed King to his sepulchre, a burial monument. However, the King is rather fussy, so be prepared to travel to quite a few of those sepulchres.
Chariot is a 2D platformer which mainly focuses around local multiplayer, though you can navigate the levels on your own. Every step of the way you’ll have to either push or pull the chariot across a variety of terrain, and get it on to platforms to reach the higher areas. The game’s physics make this tricky, as you’ll have to account for how the chariot moves, swings if it’s over a ledge, and its weight, as if you don’t anchor a character down, it could drag you to your own demise. Thankfully, it can be quite forgiving when solving puzzles so you don’t always have to be 100% accurate when judging a jump, but on the other hand, the controls can be a bit finicky.
The control set up is simple with movement bound to the analog stick, grabbing the chariot with rope on R2, jumping on X, and item usage on triangle. Either L1 or the right analog allows you to pull the chariot closer to you, though the latter also lets you feed out the rope so you can dangle the chariot off an edge to grab gems. A number of items are also made available to you, include a peg that will hold the chariot in place for a limited, or boots that allow you to sprint, useful in speed runs.
As I mentioned, there are gems and treasures to collect throughout the levels, but only the chariot is capable of picking them up. You can’t leave it behind to grab any of the loot, and in some areas it will take a bit of imagination to get the chariot up to certain vantage points. However, you can also lose that treasure if you attract the beasts known as looters. From smaller creatures to bats and bigger beasts that take a bit of a beating, you’ll have to fight them off to hold onto your treasure.
The princess is armed with a sword for just this reason, while the prince throws projectiles that will bounce around the area, taking out enemies in their path. These looters will attack the chariot and grab the treasure from it, but they’re often attracted by the noise that you make, so if you drop the chariot from a high enough point near a looter nest they will swarm, or if you collect loot nearby they’ll hear and come for you.
In terms of exploration the each level has quite a few branches to navigate. You could just follow the arrows to get to the exit but you’d missing out on so many areas by doing so. Exploring will also net you extra blueprints to create items to help get past puzzles, and there will be times where missing an item means you could get stuck. Once you finish a level it will be available on the map to go back to, with some areas getting a different entrance or two so you can access areas you couldn’t before.
As there is a focus on co-op multiplayer, there are parts of levels that can only be accessed by two players working together. These are signposted with a blue sign that has two people within, a little like you might be familiar with from the LittleBigPlanet games. You can do most of the game alone and it is fun in its own way, as working out how to proceed in a particularly challenging area feels really rewarding, but when you’re playing with someone else, Chariot just clicks.
This is where the latest PlayStation 4 firmware really comes into its own, as while the game doesn’t feature online multiplayer, myself and Blair were able to play Chariot using Share Play, with there being very little lag if any – though this will naturally depend on your internet connections. Working in a pair really does help as you each find solutions the other might have missed, or coming up with ideas, trying to execute them, and then failing, all of the time joking about with Chariot. Those highs contrast with the moments that lead to frustration.
The ice levels in Chariot are some of the hardest I’ve ever played in any platformer. At first they are an interesting new challenge to figure out and work with or against, but due to there being very little grip on ice, the chariot can slide down a slope faster than you’ve had a chance to work out what do. Not too bothersome if it’s the first platform in a sequence, but very annoying if you fall to the beginning of a section before reaching the next checkpoint. Yet it is the bounce pad areas that feel out of place. In Chariot precision is clearly required to get past an area, but when you’re in a bounce pad area all of that is abandoned. It truly is pure luck on whether your character and the chariot will make the ledge at the same time, meaning lots of trial and error.
I really liked the art style of Chariot and the music that accompanies you as you play. The little details like seeing the strain on the faces of the characters as they pull the chariot along adds a bit more life to the game, and then you have the voice acting, where the actor who voices the king’s spirit really brought his all to the role, while the skeleton shopkeeper is pitched perfectly for this cartoony world. You can tell that the actors are having fun performing the script and as a result you get drawn into the game all the more.
Chariot is one of the better platformers I’ve played of late. Played on your own, it is a good and challenging affair, but working in a pair pushes it up a few notches. The game itself is pretty large and it is likely you won’t see everything on your first go, since exploration is key in Chariot and you are encouraged to roll off the beaten path to discover additional secrets. A few issues could be addressed but overall Chariot is worth your time if you like a good puzzle platformer.
Version tested: PS4