Ultimate Chicken Horse review impressions

It's Super Mario Maker, but with your friends/frenemies.

Making punishingly difficult levels and then foisting them off onto your hapless friends is perhaps the greatest aspect of Super Mario Maker. However, you still have to go through the whole upload process before they can join in the fun. What if your friends could play your level as you make it, and make their own changes in the process?

This is the concept behind Ultimate Chicken Horse, a local-multiplayer platformer where players collaborate (read: constantly screw each other over) on a level which they must then complete.

The basics of Ultimate Chicken Horse are simple. Every round, all players pick a single platform piece from the same limited pool to place on the field. After each player has placed their level part, they are tasked with platforming to a fixed exit across the jumbled, trap-infested level. Successfully completing the level grants points to the completing player, and the game finally ends once a single player accumulates enough points.

There are some caveats, though. The level can't be too easy (everyone finishes) or hard (nobody finishes), as the game will award no points in these circumstances. You also only have a limited number of rounds for somebody to cross the point threshold, otherwise the highest-scoring player automatically wins. Finally, if people are dying too frequently or there are too many level pieces on the board, players can grab bombs instead of platforms, which allows them to destroy pieces that are already placed.

The result is a fine balancing act. You must build the most difficult level possible to prevent the other players from finishing, while ensuring the level is easy enough for you to complete and thus get points. The other players are also doing this, so the result is a chaos of level building, platforming, and yelling at your friends for being huge jerks. Temporary teams will be formed, alliances will be betrayed, and everyone will struggle to cross the finish line despite their pals' best efforts.

All of this is done in a lovely hand-drawn art style reminiscent of graph paper doodles and flipbook animations. It's colorful and clear, which is important for a game that requires precise platforming. The audio design is serviceable but not memorable, which allows you to focus on the visuals (the more important part) over music or sound effects.

Ultimate Chicken Horse is not flashy, nor loud, nor overwhelming. It is a simple game with a singularly compelling premise and a lovely art style. It does what it sets out to do - multiplayer platformer level creation - and that's all. It's an awful lot of fun at parties, and you'll lose hours to constant backstabbing and narrowly missed jumps. Building a great local multiplayer game with plenty of potential for revisiting is no small feat, but Ultimate Chicken Horse did it.