At first blush, “Hail to the Chimp” looks like a promising mix of edgy political humor with multiplayer party gaming mayhem. But the resulting mashup is a chaotic jumble that doesn’t play well and is only loosely is tied to politics at all. The minigames are too long and incorporate too many elements at once to make for good group play, the humor is disjointed and juvenile, and a few of the characters even lean into questionable stereotypes. “Hail to the Chimp” has about as much of a chance of success as a Dennis Kucinich presidential campaign.
It’s not unreasonable to expect more from a self-styled “presidential party game” called “Hail to the Chimp” — complete with Bushesque cartoon monkey on the package — especially considering it’s the work of Gamecock, the self-styled rebel independent publisher that held a mock funeral for E3 during the confab’s radical downsizing and move to Santa Monica last year. Seems like the perfect formula for witty, shamelessly anti-establishment satire.
But there’s hardly anything political about “Hail to the Chimp,” save for the over-elaborate and largely nonsensical window-dressing of an animal-kingdom election that’s hung slapdash on a rather boring and annoying series of minigames.
The game’s interface resembles a CNN-style news broadcast, with supposedly funny ticker headlines scrolling beneath, as anthropomorphic animal news anchors explain amid lame-duck jokes that the “Lion King” has been dethroned and the animals have decided to hold an election. Players pick a candidate creature and then go at it in various minigames either vs. the computer in campaign mode or head-to-head with local or online buddies.
There’s really nothing at all electoral about the minigames aside from stage names like “The Watergates” and “Political Machine.” In many cases, the 16 different games overlap so much that it’s hardly worth choosing one over the other — all of them have a polar bear, sloth, hippo and other animal candidates competing to collect googly eyed clams, which inexplicably represent votes, or voters, or something like that.
One could overlook the fact that “Hail to the Chimp” isn’t really a political party game if it were just a good party game. But in addition to lasting far too long, the minigames are chaotic, repetitive, and completely unclear in options and objectives. For example, while a player is trying to fill up his or her mailbox with clams, why can that player suddenly team up with a rival who just stole clams from them? In the middle of trying to “hack the vote” by smashing voting machines, why are clams falling from the sky? It’s mystifying and too often just devolves into onscreen chaos.
Perplexingly, a lot of effort seemed to have gone to applying wackiness to the premise, but none of the details ever assemble coherently. It’s ultimately the sort of disjointed humor that third-graders would giggle at. What’s worse, the animal characters attempt to emulate cultural stereotypes — vaguely amusing when it’s New York or Seattle personalities, not so much when it’s a Japanese-accented Samurai octopus or a greasy-haired armadillo with a Mexican accent.