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Choconoa Review

Edited by: Tiffany Lillie

It is inspiring that Choconoa was developed by a single creator, Matthieu Gouby. The effort he has put in to create the game all by himself is admirable and inspiring. However, perhaps working with a team could’ve helped. From the very beginning, Choconoa creates a difficult environment to navigate. The narrative is only explained by finding the “king” in the hub world, but you're not directed where to go to find him. You're left trying to figure out the world almost entirely on your own. Only by exploring the area will you find out what you need to do and where to go. No tutorial is given nor even an explanation on what gameplay is like — you're simply dropped into the game and expected to figure it out.

STRANGE DIFFICULTY

Based on the overall look and simplistic design, you'd guess the target audience for Choconoa was children, however it lacks anything that would actually interest a child. The levels are far too linear, and while that’s not a bad thing in itself, the hazards around the pathway through the levels are too large and cumbersome to be able to be considered fair. For example, there are mines on the ground that take up half the side of a pathway, and the problem is that most of the time there will be two next to each other on the ground, forcing you to jump over them. Other issues are design-related, such as a level with large, thorny vines that requires jumping over it, yet little room is provided for you to go through.

This wouldn’t be such a problem if not for three different factors, which turn this game from challenging into unfair: First, the controlled character is far too large in size and hitbox to be able to traverse the environment hazards; secondly, everything in the game kills the player in one hit, meaning they must start from the last checkpoint from any and all mistakes they make; and thirdly, there are not nearly enough checkpoints throughout a level, especially in the far more difficult parts. If the game was more forgiving in how the player travels through the level (with perhaps three hits killing you rather than one, or more checkpoints), it might have felt much more enjoyable to play.

ECCENTRICITIES

There are also some odd quirks that seem out of place. While in the hub world, the direction pad serves as a camera control as well, meaning where the character moves, the camera will point itself in that direction as well. While not inherently bad, what makes this design choice confusing is that there is already a camera control. This not only makes this choice frustrating, but simply redundant as well.

Once you’ve completed the first sixteen levels, there are, in fact, four hidden levels that you must try to find in order to actually complete the game. The only way to find these hidden levels is to explore the entire hub world and hope to get lucky. With no instructions on what to do and where to go — not even a map or a directional arrow to at least make it a bit simpler — you must force yourself to navigate without any way of knowing if you're going to the right place.

There are also two other minor problems: First, playing the game at full screen causes a strange issue where the colors flash different hues, which is more distracting than game-ruining. Second, after completing the first nineteen levels, there is one last secret level that the player must find. The level is initially locked, which makes you assume you must complete the other levels first, but even after beating the first nineteen, the level is still locked. The problem is the game does not explain if there is something else needed, or if all that needed completing was completed and this is simply something needing fixing — so this may or may not be a bug, but it's certainly a problem.

A POSITIVE

The environments do show some creativity in how the assets are designed. Sometimes there are little parts of the game that actually seem to have had thought put into them. The ice levels are a particular standout, using ice cream cones in the place of trees, while the thorny vines and furnaces seem inspired in their design and presentation.

3

The Verdict: Bad

While the sense of effort is there, Choconoa just simply lacks anything of originality or quality to make it worth anyone’s time. Odd control choices mixed with unfair level design and a lack of instruction makes it frustrating enough for an adult to play, and can only be worse for its presumed target demographic of children. Not to mention the game could easily be beaten within a few hours if the design flaws were ironed out, and once you've beaten all the levels, there’s no real reason to go back and play them again. Choconoa leaves too many expectations unfulfilled to be worth your time, even if it were fixed up.

Liam Cunningham
Written by
Monday, 18 March 2019 06:04
Published in Adventure

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Hailing from Maryland, Liam spent his college years studying all kinds of media, granting him an Associate's Degree in film from Anne Arundel Community College and a degree in Simulation and Digital Entertainment from the University of Baltimore to learn narrative game writing. He has worked on his own internet serials for many years, including Colorless Commentary (a review series of classic Hollywood films) and A Look Back with Lac! (Reviewing classic Anime). Also, he has voiced and wrote for many anime parodies for fun as well as creating, writing and directing a Batman fan adaptation, The Gotham High Radio Drama. His favorite games include the Kingdom Hearts series, Sly Cooper, Metal Gear Solid, The Stanley Parable, and Super Smash Bros.

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