Chilie Review: It’s Spicy

May 10th, 2014 -

At a glance, this is one of the better looking games you’ll get a chance to play on your phone. As some of you know, I’m an animator and love to see the work of others – a unique art style is enough to warrant my interest in a movie or game. So when I got the opportunity to play Chilie, I was excited.

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Chilie is a little girl with red hair that loves chili peppers – fitting, right? The story follows Chilie and her guardian on a quest to find her mother. You will watch as the two meet many characters throughout on their quest through China; some normal, some not so normal. Fully voice acted throughout and containing a very pleasing cel-shaded art style, it’s got a lot of charm to it. It may even remind you of Yotsuba&! or Hare+Guu.

Gameplay isn’t quite what I expected, though to be honest, I’m not sure what I thought it was going to be like. The game is a narrative that’s broken up by little QTEs or math problems that when completed, progress the story. After each chapter, you are scored on how well you did with the games – be it fast reaction with the QTEs, or minimal steps to get to the desired number. If you manage to get three stars on a chapter, you get a chili pepper, which allows you to have more actions during the mathematics portion, or continue in a chapter from where you failed.

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So what do the minigames involve? Playing it on PC, the majority of the game uses the arrow keys. QTEs are straight forward, in that you just press the arrows that are displayed – eventually it turns into more of a struggle as you are shown a sequence of arrows and expected to remember them as they are taken away as soon as you start typing the input. As for the math portion, a goal number is shown and you must get to that point with a given number (one at the beginning). So if you’re trying to get to fifty-three, you have the option to multiply by two, add one, subtract one, or divide the number you have by two. Simple enough, right? Instead of this being timed, you have a number of actions allowed. This carries throughout the chapter, so if you do really badly on one math problem, you’re screwed for the next – you can either restart the chapter, or give up some of those chili peppers to get more actions. Also, those aren’t always the options to use – sometimes you get an equals sign, or other things that you can collect.

QTEs have never been a feature I look forward to in a game, though some narrative driven titles do use them in excess (Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls). And the math almost seems like it’d be too difficult for people that just want to enjoy a game and its story. Yes, it’s a brain teasing type of game as well as something anyone could play, but the lack of variation in the puzzles is a bit draining (even with the difficulty spike in them). The art and story may drive you to play through the whole thing, but it will most likely be in multiple sittings. Also, not being able to skip through the narrative that I’ve seen multiple times because I’m not managing my actions properly can get grating with the Chilie’s whining/screaming/noises…

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Overall, the game is something I want to like, but it just fails to capture me. The art is great, and the story almost makes me want to continue on, but the gameplay holds me back from really enjoying the game. And being that this is a game, the fun factor is pretty important. Luckily the cost isn’t an issue for a mobile setting, so if you want to check it out for yourself, it’s free to do so. And I do suggest at the very least checking it out – it is a neat concept; it just needs better execution.

Chilie, The First Encounter is a new title from The Icehouse, an indie artists collective. It’s available on Desura for $5, is on Steam Greenlight for voting, and is free for Android and iOS.

ACQUIRE

Pros

  • Beautiful art style
  • Quirky characters
  • Decent narrative

Cons

  • Gameplay gets old fast
  • Voice acting can be grating with repetition

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