If Chicken Wiggle Told You That the Sky Was Falling…
It is easy to see that Chicken Wiggle is made by the developer that created Mutant Mudds and Xeodrifter thanks to the cutesy art and game design. Jools Watsham of Atooi, formerly of Renegade Kid, has put love and passion into this charming platformer and even sports an impressive technical aspect of hosting dedicated servers to support and encourage the community. Not only are there nearly 50 levels to compose a campaign, but releasing a game with a level creator and dedicated servers so late into the lifecycle of the 3DS takes balls and at the very least deserves respect and recognition.
Like Banjo Kazooie, Chicken Wiggle has players controlling a bird with a worm in his/her backpack – the sex of the chicken is never defined so let’s just refer to it as a “him” for argument sake. By himself, the chicken has a rather limited move set: walking at a set speed, a short hop, and a peck attack that is only a couple pixels in reach. The worm, however, acts as a grippy whip and ultimately becomes the main mode of transportation and entertainment in Chicken Wiggle.
The entire game is built upon a grid and mostly feels like a spiritual successor to Mutant Mudds. Instead of swinging a whip in any direction Castlevania-style, the worm can extend his reach in each of the four main directions like Link’s hookshot in Link to the Past. The worm can also be used as a form of attack as it stuns enemies for a moment to allow the chicken to unleash his super short range peck. Strangely, each time the worm whip is used, enemies stop in place and wait for the worm extension to end before moving again. Not that this feature is good or bad, it is just unique and stands out and was probably implemented because of the ridiculously short range of attack.
Each stage of the campaign is loaded with gems, which are basically Mario coins, and three letters that spell the word F-U-N. Unfortunately, collecting all items in each stage serves no purpose other than to indicate a 100% completion on the stage select screen. Worse yet, most stages feature the three letters in similar situations – behind invisible walls and one right at the finish above the fellow chicken you need to save. Also, there is no indicator regarding the items that have been collected when stages are replayed. Luckily, each stage usually revolves around a new gimmick even though assets are reused throughout and also feature checkpoints. Donning a jetpack, for example, allows the chicken to double jump, balloons allow for temporary flight, a hard hat essentially turns the chicken into Mr. Driller, and enemies move in predictable ways but are designed with the limitations of gameplay in mind.
Even though the player has dozens of campaign levels to play through, the real meat revolves around the level editor. Using the stylus, the player can create a level the first time the game is fired up and has access to all the game’s assets, unlike Super Mario Maker’s timed releases. There is no tutorial that explains how to create or what each element does but it isn’t necessary as the player can easily understand everything by playing around with the available tools. I was able to create my first stage, which is short and simple, in just a few minutes simply by clicking around and following the on-screen prompts; level ID# 729 if you wanted to check it out.
After a stage has been created, the player also has the option to provide a title, give a hint, and even assign tags to make that course easy to find once the stage has been beaten to avoid uploading any unwinnable levels. Level ID numbers are also easy to remember and share as they are only a few digits long and the player can easily search through uploaded content. For example, a creative Pac-Man stage is currently one of the most played user created levels available. A lot of care went into the creator and is super easy to use. With new stages being uploaded every day, Chicken Wiggle has a ton of replayability.
Regarding presentation, Chicken Wiggle is rather adorable but also extremely simple. Although everything is cute, easily distinguished, and serves a specific purpose, it is also bare as animations are almost nonexistence. The chicken, for example, is animated by just a few differences in pixels and enemies also move without much animation either. However, stereoscopic 3D is supported and used to great effect; cranking up the 3D slider is encouraged. Also, there isn’t much in terms of soundtrack quantity but many tunes are quite memorable and makes the player feel like they are going on a grand adventure.
Chicken Wiggle is sleeper-hit delight even though the experience has some setbacks. The campaign isn’t exactly the most action packed scenario and ultimately acts as the tutorial for the level editor, the main bullet point of this $15 3DS eShop digital download (at the time of this review, this game is on sale for a reduced price of $10). It will be interesting to see what the community creates over the next few months and even years. But even though the gameplay is rather simple, it is not without sophistication but ultimately nothing that hasn’t been done or seen before. At the same time, a very small team made this game, on a system that is slowly starting to fade away, and is supporting it with dedicated servers which is rather impressive in its own right. Good on you, Atooi!
Reminds Me Of: making levels in Chu Chu Rocket
Wait For it: a Switch port
Also Try: the level editor in Advance Wars 1 and 2 on GBA