A short but sweet rollercoaster of imagination.
We’re of an era where bigger means better for video games. Vast sandbox behemoth GTA V has just been crowned as the best-selling game of all time. Zelda’s first foray into a true open world last year earned it countless Game of The Year accolades. Kingdom: Come Deliverance, an ambitious medieval simulator bursting with realistic systems upon systems, is selling like oatcakes right now (I don’t think they ate hotcakes back then). While I love getting lost in an expansive world as much as the next adventurer, there’s something to be said for bite-size experiences you can polish off in an afternoon.
Enter Chuchel, the latest point-and-click adventure by Amanita Design, weighing in at a scant two hours of playtime. Those who demand some real substance for their money will want to look elsewhere, but this relentlessly charming comedy adventure proves that big laughs can come in small packages.
Chuchel himself is a wacky, demented little anthropomorphic ball of lint – like the soot sprites of Studio Ghibli, or dust bunnies as us Westerners would call them. Reminiscent of the acorn obsession of Ice Age’s Scrat, Chuchel has a disturbingly rabid zeal for cherries. The entire story, could it be called that, is predicated on him fervently chasing a delicious cherry which consistently eludes his grasp.
You can tell how creative a game is when even its main menu is entertaining. Serving as a light prologue and introduction to the puzzle mechanics, Chuchel cannot begin on his misguided adventure until you succeed in waking up the stubbornly comatose little wretch. After blissfully enduring an alarm clock, elephant and even a noisy garden gnome, he finally wakes from his tenacious slumber.
From there, Chuchel travels between remarkably diverse scenarios, from a snail-cum-arcade to the belly of a beast and even briefly into space, in pursuit of the prized cherry. Amongst the creatures you meet are a dancing one-eyed skeleton, a sentient toothbrush and a giant, aloof blancmange. Throwing further variety into the mix are delightfully tongue-in-cheek parodies of both games of yesteryear and modern casual titles. Much of the joy is to be had is in the discovery so I won’t delve any further into specifics, but rest assured that there’s never a dull moment.
Chuchel distills point-and-click mechanics to their essentials. You have no inventory other than what you can carry in your hands. At times you’re given options for an interaction, but usually each object or critter has only a single function. Every scenario is linear and self-contained. There’s no backtracking, endless trial-and-error or pixel-hunting for hidden objects or areas. Puzzles have just enough challenge to get you thinking without keeping you stumped for hours. Some may call this dumbed down; I’d call it liberating.
The real satisfaction of Chuchel is in the twists and turns it takes, but more importantly, it’s in the little things. Every single event and interaction is borne of creative devotion. No two occurrences are the same, each producing a strikingly different outcome brought to life by unique, handmade animations. Chuchel cries and screams and belly-laughs and flails his arms around wildly with infectious passion. With the world and its inhabitants adhering to the laws of cartoon physics and throwing up bonkers, brilliant surprises at every step, it’s like watching one of the very best animated movies. My biggest criticism is the lack of controller support, which when hooked up to a TV would better allow it to be experienced as such.
I’d argue that Chuchel could be enjoyed by practically anyone. Accessible to all levels of skill and experience, my partner can also attest that it’s just as great to watch as it is to play. There’ll always be demand for ever more ambitious virtual worlds, but Chuchel is testimony to the streamlined bliss of the short-form game.