Chewy: Esc from F5
First posted on 17 October 2008. Last updated on 10 August 2009.
The galaxy is being overrun by the evil Borx. Chewy and his pal Clint make a daring raid on the Borx installation F5. While escaping, Clint is sucked into a wormhole and crashes on Earth. Chewy is captured by the Borx and imprisoned on F5. Playing Chewy, you must escape and then find Clint. This is your mission in Chewy: Esc from F5.
The Borx are little green slimeballs with lots of teeth and big blasters. Chewy and Clint are cute little potbellied, pink guys with big eyes. If you are familiar with graphical adventure games such as Day of the Tentacle or Simon the Sorcerer, then you already have a good idea of the style of this game. Unlike those games, however, the goal here is only fun, with challenge taking a backseat.
The game is completely driven by the story which is a lighthearted tale. The puzzles are all contextual problems, with no thinly disguised logic puzzles. There are a few real-time segments, but the time windows are exceedingly generous, and the situations simply repeat if you do not take the right step. Similarly, where it seems like you can die or otherwise get stuck, you are simply given a humorous, in-context slap on the wrist and sent back to where you are earlier.
The puzzles are mostly easy, but just difficult enough that you have to pay attention to Chewy's goals of the moment, the properties of the objects around you, and the needs of the other characters. The solutions are almost all obvious or are the result of a likely combining of items. An analogy is the way you turn the light on in a dark room, without knowing what you will see, but knowing it is the obvious step to try. The puzzles are not difficult enough to be rewarding of themselves, but they are difficult enough to force you to pay attention. If you stall (which has happened to me a few times), the solution will likely be found by looking at something you may have missed or remembering a property of an object you may have forgotten.
You have a large inventory, and you can combine inventory items together. In general, you select an icon from a list (walk, get/use, talk, or look) or an inventory item, and then use it on objects or creatures. Other actions, such as opening the inventory or saving the game, are accessed as icons in the same way. Hotspots light up with a text label. Dialogs are menu driven. It is similar to other games of the era, and is simple and effective.
There are a few minor shortcomings in the interface design. There are only 19 save games. This sounds plenty enough, since it is obvious early on that you cannot die in this game. However, it may fall short of your needs if you want to checkpoint the game to try out various alternative paths. You can turn on subtitles or have speech, but not both at the same time. There is no way to turn on subtitles for the introduction animation. A nice feature is that you can replay any animation at any time.
The animation appears to be sprite oriented, not full motion. Sometimes the animation seems poorly edited, out of place with the story, as if some element is missing. There are also many times where the characters seem to be talking, but there is no dialog or subtitles for it.
The animation design, both characters and sets, are of good quality. The developer tries for a television cartoon look for the game and generally succeeds. Bright colors and full but uncluttered scenes make the game visually appealing.
The dialogs are originally written in German, and are subsequently translated to English for localization. The English voice acting is generally good. However, the same actors are overused for various roles, which can get a bit distracting at times. Taken together both voiceover and animation problems, I recommend trying out the original German version if you are fluent. It is probably not worse.
Although the game starts off in a Borx space station, most of it takes place on Earth. In addition to the station, there are 3 Earth locales: an American town, the nearby big city, and a South or Central American jungle. This is not a short game, even with relatively easy puzzles. There is enough freedom of movement and nonlinearity that you do not feel like you are on rails, even if the overall gameplay is mostly linear. It is an example of a good game design.
With simple puzzles, a game like this depends upon its humor, which is simply too subjective upon which to base a strong recommendation. Much of the humor is to the credit of the game's creator Carsten Wieland, who is also the creator of the more adult themed Lula series (Lula: The Sexy Empire, Lula 3D). The game tries to be funny, but many jokes may be too familiar to some gamers. This is another area where the (presumed) original German version may excel over the translated English version, perhaps by adding in some puns. Here, the humor is the difference between a decent game and a great game.
Overall, the combination of simple puzzles, appealing visual style, and the distinct style of humor make Chewy: Esc from F5 a good game for young players who are just getting into adventure gaming.