Dec 14, 2017 Last Updated 3:01 PM, Dec 14, 2017

Chalo Chalo Early Access Review

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A local multiplayer game of slow, tactical racing.

I generally avoid local multiplayer games but I recently moved in a place that fits more than two humans in it, so I figured I'd celebrate with an experimental get-together.

With Chalo Chalo Early Access, players download the controller app on their smartphone. Controllers are basic: they consist of a directional pad and a single button for action. I can certainly appreciate simplicity when possible, and this game sprints with that concept. In line with this gameplay philosophy, there are no characters, story, music, or text apart from the final victory screen.

Load the game and let people join. Immediately, people are rolling around the screen with their "racer," which is a ball the same color as the screen of their phone. When enough players roll into the center circle on the join screen, the race screen comes on, and after we get a feel for the controls, begin intense sumo battles.

The race

Wait on the far left, find the goal on the far right, survey the randomly generated field of different colored splotches and weapons, plan your route, then execute when the chanting stops. Sidenote: a room full of people were unsure how to feel about the tribal feel to an electronic racing game--make of that what you will.

The patches have different effects on your speed and handling. The variety of weapons, much like other games of the genre, either instantly or gradually help you or hurt your opponents, and, like the best race game weapons, improper use can severely screw the person firing.

I know it seems like I'm skipping over details but we all had to figure it out and, darn it, so will you! When I say simple, there are only five terrains and five weapons. Heck, there are only five screens in the entire game. Five! Even Oregon Trail had more than that!

So why does the game feel so satisfying? People. Get. Involved.

At first, your friends and foes will simply bum rush straight lines to the goal and fire off weapons aimlessly. But then someone realizes that there's no penalty for experimenting by, for example, taking the weird route that looks longer. I'll avoid spoiling the fun, but know that those who don't shy away from what is apparently deceiving ca, at times, rip rewards that will enrage the the cautious and the timid.  Delay the release of a button pressed, until the firing of your weapon can be unleashed at full force, and you can make an entire party scream your name in anguish. Or win a round by losing a race. Yes, Chalo Chalo is a trickery and as a couch cool, it's absolutely satisfying.

The pace, though, is slow. Each race means crossing a single screen, and each race is about a minute long. That may not seem very exciting, but it's highly effective in building up tension like you wouldn't believe, causing people to grow frantic. Honestly, it got to a point where I worried my buddies would crush their phones trying to press harder to go faster (which isn't how it works but you know you try anyhow).Then came skills, as we started pulling impressive streaks over the course of the evening as we better. 

Quick to pick up, long to master. That's what good game design is all about.

The sound effects, simple of course, are perfect. Then are the graphics: so minimal it's hard to comment apart from saying that's intentional.  If the game is fun, then like many others, I'm fine with that, though discerning the different dots from each other could have been made clearer at times. There can only be eight players, so I'm not sure why the developers didn't use a different color for each dot.

Part of me would like more weapons and terrains, but that would raise the temptation of customizing levels and I don't want to throw off this whole Five Screens vibe, you know? Plus I really dig that people say "Ready" and the game responds "Go!"

There were some connection issues but when linking phones to routers to computers to games, it's hard to say where the fault lies. Most of the time, when people drop out unexpectedly, it's due to their phone dying because they'd been playing for a couple hours straight without checking their battery. Seriously, bring your phone's charger if playing at a friend's house. 

Joe's Assorted thoughts

Oooh, random levels, this is fun
We're all sperm. We've arrived at this conclusion independently and unanimously.
"We want bigger joysticks!" heh heh
Been a while since I loved a scoring system
Sooooooo many arguments about hues
It's crazy that it took so long for this game to exist 


The Verdict

Chalo Chalo does one thing and it does it extremely well. If you have friends, buy this game now and invite them over immediately. You'll be threatening their lives in no time!

Joe Pilato

Joe Pilato works as an engineer and pub quiz host while developing his skills as a standup comic and storyteller. You may occasionally find him wandering the streets of NYC looking for adventure or possibly running into the woods to hide from civilization for days at a time.


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