They say imitation is the best form of flattery. If that’s the case, Sonic Team should be just thrilled by Stockton’s, Place the Arrows on the Floor. Available on the Indie Games platform on Xbox Live, this fast-paced puzzler takes Sonic Team’s classic Dreamcast puzzler, ChuChu Rocket!, strips it of its charm, its eye catching visuals and its online capabilities and leaves us with a mere shell of a game. If you own or have owned ChuChu Rocket! in the past, I implore you, do not go near this game – it will only upset you. Sure, it’s cheap, but in this day and age, that’s no excuse for a title as lazily developed as this.
Those who haven’t experienced ChuChu Rocket!’s not inconsiderable charm might find a modicum of fun in Place the Arrows’ basic gameplay due to the quality of the underlying template, but honestly, this is as barebones a take on that template as is humanly possible.
Working from a single screen grid made up of numerous squares, you are tasked with getting as many of the nimble little men running about the screen to home base as possible. This is done by placing arrows on the floor to direct their movement. Three arrows can be placed at a time with a fourth arrow leading to the first arrow placed disappearing. What makes the game interesting is the inclusion of not only enemies eager to eat up your little men, but also up to three other players just as keen as you to get those little men to their own base. Played with a few friends, this basic set-up still has the potential to be extremely competitive and highly addictive, but it’s hard to commend a poor imitation of a game released at the turn of the century.
Rather than the bright, Sega-infused visuals of ChuChu Rocket! and the classic mouse vs. cat character design, here you get a bunch of pixelated fellas who look like they just wandered in from Darwinia + and a handful of Space Invader rejects brought in to replace the infinitely more charming cats from ChuChu Rocket!. I can appreciate what is being attempted by Place the Arrows’ more simplistic, retro visual style, but the game never quite pulls it off. The visuals are dull, lifeless and, thanks to the never changing backgrounds and the complete lack of individual imagination on display, utterly boring to look at. Despite some very interesting names for each level, the only difference between each one is the placement of your base and a few black lines strategically placed as obstacles for the little guys sprinting about the screen.
The inclusion of multilayer for up to four players is a welcome one and the game does allow you to specify the lay out, bonus levels and time limit of each level. Sadly though, that’s all you get. There is no single player mode to speak of and no online play. So, if you haven’t got a friend around, this game is about as useful as an asshole on your elbow. The fact that a single player can be used by two players at once is a nice touch, but it certainly isn’t enough to make up for the game’s glaring lack of game modes.
It may be cheap, but Place the Arrows on the Floor is a poor imitation of the infinitely superior ChuChu Rocket! With no single player experience whatsoever and a visual style that fails to impress, Place the Arrows is a very hard game to recommend – even at the budget price. The underlying gameplay can still provide an enjoyable experience, but this really is poor reproduction of a Dreamcast classic.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox 360 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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