App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
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Remember the squirrel from the Ice Age movies that was always obsessed over an acorn? Chuchel is basically the video game version of that. Your little black, hairy protagonist is obsessed with cherries, and the whole game is about the humorous and inventive ways you can get him within arm’s reach of his precious prize using mostly traditional point-and-click adventure game mechanics.
Chuchel is a game by Amanita Design, which all but guarantees two things above all else: fantastic art design and general weirdness. The same development house that released Machinarium and the Samorost stays consistent here with Chuchel, a game starring a black, hairball-like thing in his (its?) quest to enjoy the simple pleasure of eating a cherry.
The reason why your hero can’t simply eat his coveted fruit is twofold. First, there is a pesky little pink rodent that also wants to steal the cherry for itself, but there’s also a giant, black hand that comes down from the sky and plucks the cherry away whenever it seems within your grasp, and this hand tends to like placing your prize in all sorts of bizarre and dangerous situations that you have to try and figure out how to navigate to progress the game forward.
Tap to tamper
Although your prized cherry is constantly changing locations in Chuchel, the way you play it largely doesn’t. No matter whether you’ve come across a giant creature that has swallowed the fruit or a giant UFO is trying to abduct it, you still try and figure out a way to get your cherry back through classic point-and-click-style gameplay.
You observe the scene in front of you, tap on things you can interact with, and try to see if some combination of your taps can lead you toward some kind of solution that makes sense. There are times where your actions bring up a contextual menu where you can choose a few different ways to interact with something, plus some moments where things might be timing-based, but for the most part, Chuchel is all about experimentation through tapping on most everything around you in a given scene.
There is a somewhat cohesive story to Chuchel, but moving between scenes in the game feels more like a series of vignettes rather than some grand adventure. A lot of this has to do with the fact that many scenes in Chuchel end with a title card popping up in some way before moving on. Although this might feel kind of weird, I really appreciate the sudden scene changes in the game. They allow for Chuchel to keep focus on putting you in increasingly bonkers scenarios without any need for presenting logical transitions.
This all ends up working surprisingly well, mostly thanks to Chuchel’s sense of charm. The little hairball creature’s gibberish and exaggerated mannerisms make you want to see how he will interact with everything in a given scene, and Amanita Design has a great sense of how to craft scenes that create a sense of wonder yet maintain a clear logic so you’re never too confused about what to do next. If there is one gripe I have for Chuchel though, I will say that there are times where the game’s animations—as delightful as they might be—are no fun to sit through if you’re doing trial and error style puzzles that may force you to try specific actions multiple times.
The bottom line
Chuchel is a silly little game that feels like you’re playing a weird animated short at the beginning of a kids movie. It’s creative, bright, and charming, but all of those qualities are somewhat transient. As long as you’re making your way through Chuchel with no roadblocks, it’s delightful. If you have to sit through any repeated animations though, it can feel like a chore.