Why did the chicken cross the road? Well, in this instance, it’s more a question of ‘how?’ rather than ‘why?’. The chicken is nestled in a busted toilet that’s been kitted out with propulsion rockets and the road has been replaced with a dangerous menagerie of traps, bombs and barrel cannons.
YouTube 'sensation' Pewdiepie has teamed up with developer DoubleMoose - a studio featuring Armin Ibrisagic, one of the devs behind the immensely popular Goat Simulator – to bring Switch owners something a little different in the form of Animal Super Squad; and it’s a title well worth your attention. The standalone adventure may be on the short side, and home to some overly familiar inspiration *cough* Donkey Kong Country Returns*cough*, but there’s enough meat on the bone to keep coming back for another bite.
Animal Super Squad is one of those games that’s equal parts ‘WTF?’ and ‘this is awesome!’. The premise is simple: get the chicken, sloth, fish or another animal of your choice to the end of the level in one piece. There are no coins to collect, no KONG letters to grab – just get from A to B. Think along the lines of BMX stunt title Trials and the recently released Bridge Constructor Portal and you’re halfway there.
Avoid spikes, lava, spring-loaded boxing gloves and other dangers to make it to the finish line safely and the reward is access to the next brilliantly designed level. An abundance of checkpoints are scattered throughout, and with a simple push of '-', warping back to keep retrying those tough-to-beat sections is simple and quick. It’s not too dissimilar to the quick-fire retries that you get in the Runner series. Tucked away are bonus stages – one per level - that provide an extra challenge for the fans of 100% completion, and although these stages are much shorter in length, they’re considerably more challenging to beat. Still, having a world that’s thoroughly completed provides heavy incentive to meticulously explore all this game has to offer.
With physics being at the forefront of gameplay (take one look at the marketing and you’ll see), you'll need to use the control stick so your Chicken hero can tilt his mode of transport for a long jump - or a lethal nosedive if misjudged. Tilt too much and the chances of blasting full-speed to your death are vastly increased. A few levels in and mastering the art of gradual flight and reaching the finish line safely becomes less frustrating and more enjoyable and is helped by the gradual and comfortable learning curve.
Without any voice-over and very little text, the game still manages to pack in some subtle but effective humour. To the amusing (and cute) chirping of Chicken as he patiently sits in his jetpack car, to the ragdoll physics of the sloth dragging his lanky, hairy arms across the platforms; points of repetitive frustration are easier to swallow with tiny details that frequently keep us smiling from ear to ear.
In addition to the imaginatively-designed levels in the single-player mode, a fully-fledged level editor is available to use from the get-go. It’s daunting to use at first but sit down and invest some time with the editor and there's plenty of scope to create your own impressive pieces of work - but patience is advised as it’s a little on the fiddly side. While being given generous access to all the assets the developer used when creating the title might not interest some, having the option to let the creative juices flow will be happily received by many.
The active community has already conjured up some imaginative masterpieces, and with a nifty upvote option, we quickly stumble across a replica of an iconic Super Mario level, a stage so intricate that it blows our tiny minds and some truly mind-boggling mixtures of brilliance and functional nonsense. There are, however, creators out there in the community with their main aim to troll as there’s a deluge of creations impossible to even start; a small annoyance, but then again it’s an open platform and it’s to be expected. Having a constant stream of stages to jump in at any time is an attractive and accessible feature making Animal Super Squad even more replayable as there’s never really a shortage of content to sink your teeth into.
This indie title won’t take the world by storm in the same way Goat Simulator did when it hit consoles and PC a few years ago, but DoubleMoose has managed to create a title that’s packed to the rafters with content that sits comfortably in a tight package that’s predominantly driven by a creative community. While the lack of a multiplayer mode is sure to dishearten those couch co-op readers out there, the freedom to build levels of your own by using an intricate stage editor certainly helps makes up for it.
Dripping with charm and frequently laugh-out-loud funny, Animal Super Squad is a good example of when physics-based gameplay is done right. There are some elements such as boss battles, multiplayer and HD rumble that aren’t in this game and the lack of these features will be bothersome for some Switch users. However, this little gem is a formidable first entry into the indie scene for the YouTube personality and positively paves the way to what's looking to be a successful new venture for DoubleMoose.