Although it’s a bit juvenile, there’s a fairly decent platformer underneath all the fat jokes. A variety of difficulty options means any skill level should find something for them here.
Developer: Guin Entertainment, LLC
Publisher: Graffiti Games
Release Date: 8 October, 2020
I’m not one of those fat acceptance people, but there’s not a plethora of games built around chunkier characters, making the titular character in the Adventures of Chris (AC) stand out. Instead of shying away from that body-type, treating it as something to include but ignore, it’s the whole kit and kaboodle, central to the story and gameplay mechanics. When looking at the trailer and description, there was an absurdity in the premise that I enjoyed. For me it hit the right tone, not being so bland as Curious George Goes to Space, but also not so extreme as Curious George High Fives Harambe in Hell.
The adventure of AC takes place in a platforming game, and opens up in a similar fashion to the SNES game Lester the Unlikely. Chris is not an athletic kid, so when faced with the basic hurdles of a platformer, he’s not up to the challenge, unable to jump very high or climb ledges. Unlike Lester though, he gets a substantial boost pretty quickly, as he’s transformed into a balloon, which provides for an unlikely set of super powers. These gradually accumulate in the game, from purchasing baked goods and armor from sentient balloons, to learning mystical arts from debudo masters. As he hones these abilities, he’ll be able to float downwards at will, belly flop off the ground, fling fireballs at his enemies, and other tricks that may or may not pertain to being a balloon.
With a Society of Fiends to face off against, Chris travels the world, taking them out one at a time while dealing with different obstacles in each area. For example, in the Great Barrier Reef stage, you control a submarine and tow Chris behind, indirectly controlling him while weaving around hazards. In Malaysia, hordes of mosquitoes impede your ability to float over all of the obstacles, and some sections have green water that drains your magic abilities. Each stage has some kind of gimmick mixed in, as well as a hidden national flag and library book, which will grant you a new power if you retrieve all of them.
As you obtain new powers, the controls expand, and since you can choose the order that you play the levels in, when you have what abilities won’t be the same for everyone. This makes it mostly pointless to go through all of the moves and controls in the game, as a few of the buttons are defunct until you’re a few hours in. Whilst playing the game with my controller, I didn’t notice any problems with misread inputs or lag. Plus, in spite of learning the moves at different intervals, I wasn’t mixing them up. My main issue was forgetting all of the options I had available.
Many of the characters and ideas in AC are bizarre. The group of villains are believable enough, with how many comic book iterations keep coming out in media. However, the vampire child is fairly strange, as he blends very childish items like jack-in-the-boxes with wanting to destroy all who oppose him. He wasn’t quite as unusual as a kingdom made up of sentient balloons though, whose existence is never really questioned or explained. As Chris interacts with all of these weirdos, he serves somewhat of a straight man, especially with the sometimes savage lines delivered at his expense. If you have a simple sense of humor, you might get a kick out of this game, and I enjoyed some lines and moments myself. None of it really goes in a direction outside of the stereotypical though.
The graphics in AC are pretty basic looking, making me think of something made in Flash. That’s not to say it looks crummy or poorly drawn, but for example, looking at the background of Los Angeles, the city skyline and trees are minimalistic and not very pleasant to look at. Others don’t look quite this bad, but none look great either. Foreground elements, such as the NPCs, look considerably better, and the animation is sufficient to look smooth and not jarring.
I checked the soundtrack for AC on YouTube, and there’s a decent number of songs for a game of this length. Most of them are only 1-2 minutes long though, so they loop upon themselves pretty quickly. However, there’s enough variety in the compositions that the music doesn’t get stale, or makes you think that you’ve been hearing any of them for too long. Plus, a few of them are pretty good tracks that you’d want to listen to for a while. Voice acting might have been a nice touch, though with the character designs, I could envision what they would probably sound like: a whiny vampire brat, an Alabaman nerd, a radical balloon, etc. I don’t remember any grating sound effects, with the magic blasts and effects sounding appropriately.
- It doesn’t always work out wonderfully, but the gameplay mechanics based off of balloons works better than I’d have expected. The float-y jumps, navigating on the ceiling, and switching back and forth is well incorporated. Plus, few of the power-ups are strictly necessary for beating the game, so beating any stage at any time is completely possible.
- Traveling around the world is treated as somewhat of a bigger deal by the main character, who seems to relish learning about other cultures. Kind of nerdy, but also kind of nice.
- This wouldn’t be a bad choice for a child’s game, as it’s family-friendly content-wise. Unless you count those oddballs who fetishize stuff like inflation…
- Even if you don’t revisit areas to find secrets, there’s some level recycling that makes the last hour or so feel repetitive. It’s true that this doesn’t necessarily include going through the exact same areas once more, but I still would have liked greater diversity in the last sections.
- Making jokes about Chris being a fat nerd is fine, but they would have had more content to work off of if he had any other traits or interests than school, playing games, and eating. Since that’s not the case, it gets beaten to death, un-death, and dead again.
- The learning curve is fairly consistent in AC, but it gets considerably harder near the end. I’m not sure how well those who aren’t great at platformers, yet could struggle their way through earlier stages, would handle the final stretch.
- It’s sensible to get the fire and ice powers early on, as they’re projectiles you’ll rely on throughout the game. Other stages I might suggest playing sooner than later would include Malaysia, Japan, and Transylvania.
- If you aren’t getting enough cookies for all of the upgrades, which you’ll want by the time you’re getting to the last boss, you can return to easy stages to get more cookies with little effort.
- Switching in and out of inflated mode and maintaining precise control over your character becomes very important, so you’ll want to have all of his abilities on lock-down by the end.
Having beaten AC on the Recommended difficulty level, I’d say that it would be an easy enough experience for those who have a good grasp on platforming games. The late game does ramp up the difficulty, but something that helps the game from getting too frustrating is that each screen transition serves as an in-stage checkpoint, so if you fail in that room, you’ll only go back to the start of it. Boss fights were another place where it could get a bit tricky, but they have fairly consistent behavior and patterns, so once you learn how to handle their moves, defeating them isn’t too hard. Honestly though, the last boss adds so many complications, I wasn’t sure I was going to beat it at first, in part because I forgot that I could float downwards manually. Oops. Either way, it was a relief finishing off vampire kid once and for all, and being able to return home.
There are factors in the gameplay design that annoyed me more than I might have expected, such as all of the tight corridors with spikes, particularly when indirectly controlling the character and dealing with momentum. Some of these areas would require me to try it a few times, and though it never took me that long to get through, would anger me more than expected. This was similar to how AC didn’t take that much time to finish, but somehow after beating the 6 main stages, it seemed as if the game kept dragging on while never getting to the finish line. In spite of some issues though, I overall enjoyed playing through AC, and would recommend it for those who’d want a short platformer.