As a famous Chinese proverb once read, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Or, in the case of Chariot, gently shoving a wheeled sepulchre in the right direction.
It’s an understated opening to Frima Studio’s quirky co-op platformer, allowing curiosity to get the better of you in helping the princess gently roll her father’s remains to their final resting place. Suspicions are raised as the credit’s appear, her father’s ghostly form soon interrupting them to reveal that he hasn’t ascended to Heaven and immediately complaining that the sepulchre isn’t as grandiose as his majesty deserves. You’re therefore tasked with journeying to the Royal Catacombs to find another worthy of his magnificence, taking the opportunity en route to fill it with riches.
That will take you through five wondrously detailed underground environments, the princess yanking the sepulchre through increasingly tricky terrain as you aim to reach each stage’s conclusion. It isn’t a journey that you have to take alone either, with a second player stepping in as her faithful fiancé to work together in safely manoeuvring the cumbersome contraption with calculated care.
Physics-based by design, players will tug, swing and roll the sepulchre onwards in their trek – relying on a sole rope to drag it up treacherous climbs. It’s particularly unique in motion, resulting in hilarious instances when you work in tandem with another player as unforeseen consequences creep in. This laughter seemingly goes against the fairly serene mood in Chariot, the only interruptions being the witty script that has been penned that sees the King’s ghost bark his dissatisfaction at you.
Periodically placed arrows will guide you to your goal but you’ll want to go off the beaten track to explore as much of your surroundings as possible, with Frima throwing in collectable skulls, blueprints and alternate exits to contend with. Stage completion will unlock speed run challenges that encourage you to map out the quickest routes, whereas loot that you gather can be used to purchase gadget upgrades to aid you in your efforts.
These gadgets expand upon the strategies available to you, a peg letting you chain the sepulchre in place as you reposition yourself before releasing it. There are numerous others placed at your disposal, whether that be sprint which grants you a speed boost, the attractor and repulsor which draws or repels the sepulchre, or slowdown which temporarily slows your immediate surroundings.
You’ll flee from Looters who want to steal your riches, with Chariot being joyously trial-and-error when you reach the increasingly difficult challenges laid before you. Failure is part of the process, but a generous helping of checkpoints means that your progress will never see a significant setback.
Wii U GamePad integration will allow you to enjoy Off-TV Play whenever you wish, even if such instances are more geared toward those tackling the echoey caverns in Chariot solo.
Chariot amounts to a remarkable accomplishment, with Frima Studio displaying a perfect understanding of the nuances necessary to build an enticing co-operative experience. Remaining just as enjoyable to tackle solo, it is with a helping hand that Chariot truly shines as a reminder that shared adventures can be as equally treasured.
Version Tested: Wii U
Review copy provided by Frima Studio