Review: Hail to the Chimp: The Presidential Party Game

HailToTheChimp.jpg I don’t know about you, but to me the current political climate is exceptionally depressing. Neither candidate for the upcoming presidential election is inspiring in the least. Personally, I don’t believe a word that comes out of Obama’s mouth, nor do I think he has any clue how to lead this country. But at the same time, McCain isn’t a very uplifting choice on the other side of the ticket either. He’ll probably just give us four more years of the same crap that’s happened under the Bush administration. Wow, now those are two great potential presidents waiting in the wings right there, huh?

In dire political times like these, it’s great to see a game like Hail to the Chimp come along and poke fun at the world of politics in a satirical tone that isn’t trying to indoctrinate players with the developers’ political beliefs. But sadly, this game is more depressing than real-life politics. Actually, in Hail to the Chimp — The Presidential Party Game as it is so subtitled — the plot setup is somewhat familiar to what’s going on in our own election cycle. The Lion, proclaimed King of the Animals, has been forced out of his job and 10 dull, unqualified animal candidates begin their campaigns to take office as President of the Animal Kingdom.

Along the campaign trail, you hop into the role of each candidate at one of ten different primaries (or stages) and compete in simple party games to earn that candidate votes. Votes in Hail to the Chimp come in the form of clams, and during a primary you go toe-to-toe with three of the other candidates in frantic battle royales to obtain the most votes. Mini-game objectives come in a wide variety (there are 16 different game types if I remember correctly), but the overall idea is to collect the most clams while trying to keep your presidential opposition from doing the same by pounding on them with fists of fury. Thusly, Hail to the Chimp becomes nothing more than a mindless, button-mashing beat-‘em-up. Whether you play online or locally with four players or go at it all by your lonesome, the gameplay peters out after a single match. It’s that shallow and boring.

Hail to the Chimp’s real crime, however, is how disappointingly unfunny it is. It’s been continuously hyped as one of the funniest games ever made, and really, Wideload Games’ whole plan was to make it funny above anything else. I don’t know if they tried too hard or what, but the game simply isn’t funny. Like at all. Woodchuck Chumley, the Animal Kingdom’s Ron Burgundy, and his oddball news reports are a bright spot, as is some of the spoofy video content consisting of mock infomercials, campaign ads, commercials and public service announcements, but even they don’t generate anything more than a few chuckles. The hand-painted art style and cutesy animal characters have an undeniable charm about them, too, but sadly none of them have anything that interesting or comical to say either, and overall the game’s charm only runs skin deep. All in all, the 10 candidates are stereotypical and devoid of any distinct personality you can really latch onto.

I really, really, really wanted to enjoy Hail to the Chimp. Even after realizing how dull it was after my first five minutes at the helm I continued to plug away through the entire campaign trail and squeeze in some online time to try and give the game a chance to grow on me. Obviously, it didn’t take. Somewhere along the way the developers clearly became so focused on creating a funny game that they forgot to provide gameplay that is, you know, functional and entertaining. Being brutally honest here, Hail to the Chimp is the worst game I’ve played all year so far, and subsequently a supreme personal letdown given how much I had been looking forward to it. But if it is any consolation, the front end UI, comprised of a live GRR news broadcast playing in the background as you set options and choose modes, certainly gets my vote for best menu design of the year.

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Pros:
+ Woodchuck Chumley and many of the mock TV ads, news reports and infomercials are good for a few chuckles
+ News broadcast menu presentation and hand drawn graphics style have a nice charm

Cons:
– Shallow, mindless, repetitive gameplay wears out its welcome after one match
– Poor controls make getting around the maps and bashing opponents a chore
– None of the candidates’ personalities are really that interesting
– Generally speaking, the game just isn’t that funny, and that’s mainly what it was supposed to be

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on Xbox 360, also available for PS3
Publisher: Gamecock Media Group
Developer: Wideload Games
Release Date: 6/24/08
Genre: Party
Players: 1-4 (online and local)

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!