Amanita Design, the creators of this whimsical point and click, are known for their quirky adventures. From Samarost to Machinarium to Botaniclua, there’s a wit and charm to their games that you will struggle to find anywhere else. So it was with delight that I recently discovered (yes, I was late to the party) that they were releasing Chuchel, a casual adventure about a fuzzy creature trying to get back its stolen cherry.

Chuchel follows more closely on from Amanita Design’s last game, Botanicula, with a more casual, experimental based point and click design. By that I simply mean that you won’t find the complex puzzles and item gathering from games like Machinarium, but instead gameplay requires you to explore the unusual environment, objects and creatures in order to see what responses they give you.

That’s not to say the game doesn’t feature puzzles in some form, or even some challenging moments, but the game is less about combining things logically to solve a problem, and more about experiencing your interactions and enjoying them – with the added benefit of progression when you select the correct things.

Chuchel is the titular protagonist, and one day – after some coaxing out of bed by the player – he awakes to have his breakfast (the aforementioned cherry), but before he can bite into it, the cherry is stolen by a giant grubby hand. Pursuing it Chuchel runs into a mouse-like creature that is also after this cherry, and together they bicker and fight throughout the various levels, working with and against each other to try and get it back, all the while this giant hand impedes their progress.

Each area contains some bizarre creature or set of objects, and Chuchel has to try and communicate, trick or muscle his way past them to try to get his cherry – which is then swiftly grabbed away again before he can dig in. The strangeness of the things that inhabit the world is the game’s most successful feature. Not just because of how humorous or unique they are, but in being virtually unrecognisable, they are also unpredictable, and this plays perfectly into the game’s ethic of experimenting with the things in the level. You’re curious to see what they do, and how they will react to certain actions.

For example, Chuchel, when interacting with something, can choose from a variety of actions. You may be able to speak to the creature, try to climb on it, hit it – basically ‘insert seemingly random interaction here’. While there’s usually a specific correct option to choose (sometimes unlocking after you’ve tried a few of the others), the fun comes from seeing how they all play out. For example, in one instance you are affronted by an extra-terrestrial, and when throwing things at it and trying to be nice only meets with it firing its laser at you, Chuchel gets angry and shouts at it, causing it to fly away in fear. There’s many a chuckle worthy moment like this throughout the game.

When things do get a bit more complicated, puzzles may require you to perform actions in a specific order. One has you trying to get the cherry from a container guarded by an angry dog-type creature, so you must interact with the objects around you to find a way of getting the dog out of the container and then lower yourself into it once it’s gone. And one of my favourites, an early one which sees you trying to sneak up on your cherry – you can try running to it, sneaking to it, leaping once you’ve snuck up close, approaching from behind; it’s just about trying to manipulate what is happening in the situation to your advantage, all the while enjoying the animations and reactions.

And if this wasn’t enough, some levels contain quirky mini-games. A section ala Flappy Bird early on has you controlling a bird avoiding blobs in the sky, while a later section has you competing for coins in the arcade of a giant snail. These arcade games include knock offs of classics Pacman, Tetris, and Space Invader, which you must beat in order to buy something from the snail. It’s ludicrous of course, and makes little sense, but they are quirkily designed and it all plays into this random, insane quest for your lost cherry.

The presentation is both crazy and limited, with each level being almost like a blank canvas with peculiar things pasted into it. However the creature designs and animations are great, creating some very humorous moments and situations. This is helped by the game’s pacing which, unless you get stuck, takes you promptly from level to level, featuring a funny animation, dance or song when you complete each of them.

Unfortunately this also means that the game is incredibly short. It isn’t an expensive title, but it was a little disappointing to reach its conclusion in only 2 hours. There’s also not much in the way of replay value. There are some hidden things to find that may require repeat plays of certain levels, but ultimately once you’ve seen all there is to see, which isn’t that much, then I don’t see much point in going back. To compare, I played through Botanicula twice because I felt that was a better rounded experience with plenty more to discover (even containing a whopping 53 achievements, compared to Chuchel’s 7).

Having said that, it doesn’t really effect my opinion of the game that much, and in those 2 hours there’s not a single moment that I didn’t enjoy. Chuchel is a casual game with enough variation and challenge to engage an audience beyond children. He’s a funny little character and the world is intriguing and joyously bizarre. It’s typical Amanita Design whimsy. They are brilliant at what they do, and hopefully there’s plenty more to come from the developer – though perhaps next time a more full bodied adventure to really sink our teeth into (according to reports the company is actually working on four new titles, including their first attempt at a horror game, so this is almost a given).



Author

John Little
John Little

I started gaming with the release of the PS1 - Crash Bandicoot and Ridge Racer Revolution being the first 'real' games I ever set eyes on - and have been enthralled with the medium ever since. I particularly love strategy and horror games, the sort offered by titles such as Total War and Silent Hill, though I also have a soft spot for a good RPG. I studied Journalism at university in the hopes of progressing into writing about games, but my 'real job' is as a postman. You'll most likely find me covering indie games as I'm always on the look out for interesting little titles, and generally I stick to the PC and PS4 platforms. I'm not interested in MMOs or really any kind of online game, and I have an unusual and frankly worryingly expensive obsession with collecting gaming guide books, but aside from that I like to think I'm a well rounded average gamer. Find me on twitter @JohnLittle29