Review – Chowderchu

Review – Chowderchu

Platforms: Windows PC, Steam

Game Name: Chowderchu

Publisher: Ryan Jensen

Developer: Ryan Jensen

Genre: Action, Adventure

Release Date: January 4th, 2016

Chowderchu from Ryan Jensen

Chowderchu wants to be different; this much is clear from the outset. This platforming adventure is a game not quite like any other, but it isn’t without comparables. With challenges at least partially reminiscent of the superb trapforming title Eryi’s Action and music that brings back dreamy memories of Cave Story, Chowderchu places itself in good company, but can it live up to these comparisons, or are these just passing similarities?

The short answer is that no, Chowderchu doesn’t share much else in common with these games. That isn’t to say, however, that this title has nothing of its own to offer. This challenging game has a unique, psychedelic setting which – coupled with a difficulty curve that will have teeth gritted and eyebrows twitching – gives Chowderchu a feel all of its own.

Chowderchu, I Choose You!

A simple text introduction sets the scene of Chowderchu: the titular character was once a great storyteller, but he gave up his ability to speak for long-lasting comforts and entertainment, which he has enjoyed ever since. However, today his journey to the “chowd well” will lead to an unexpected adventure. If any of this sounds strange, you’re probably prepared for more of what Chowderchu has to offer.

Chowderchu uses an unusual set of controls. The basic platforming mobility tools are here – left, right and jump – but Chowderchu can also teleport a short distance in any direction, bypassing obstacles as long as they aren’t too big. Another ability allows Chowderchu to leap huge distances if the player clicks and drags on him in a particular direction.

I found this last movement method both essential and painfully fiddly; some obstacles are a nightmare to navigate, as landing the cursor on Chowderchu and clicking fast enough can demand fast reflexes.

Enemies are dotted through the levels, and there are two main methods for neutralizing them. The first is a sword, which frankly feels rather ineffectual given the short range necessary to operate it. The second is a projectile which provides a temporary bubble-shaped platform to stand on wherever it lands. It’s no great surprise that I found the second weapon more valuable, although most of the time simply bypassing enemies is a more useful strategy.

Chu Backa

In addition to the platforming sections, there are also levels where you control a “space van” in side-scrolling shooter segments. These parts of the game are more in line with their parent genre, but there are still a few surprises to be found.

Unfortunately, Chowderchu isn’t much to look at. A retro aesthetic isn’t quite enough to explain away the very ramshackle visual design of the game’s levels. Nonetheless, a unique and apparently deliberately rough aesthetic is at work in Chowderchu that some may find endearing.

I found the music considerably more appealing, as its chiptune style was reminiscent of indie classics such as Cave Story.

Who Wants Chowder?

Chowderchu won’t be everyone’s cup of tea; the game’s difficulty doesn’t always feel fair, and this is only occasionally funny. For anyone looking for a challenge, however, this game could offer an enjoyable diversion. A unique control system and an almost charmingly basic design philosophy (I do believe the developer himself must have recorded the dialogue for “Baz the Wise”) help to elevate Chowderchu and make it worthy of attention.

Chowderchu is available via Steam.

[xrr rating=”3.5/5″]

Watch the official trailer for Chowderchu below: