The yolk's on us.
A longstanding urban legend widely circulated throughout the Internet states that poultry purveyor Kentucky Fried Chicken changed its name to KFC because they weren't using real chickens. They were using genetically altered chickens with five drumsticks, eight wings, and no heads!
Of course, this is utter nonsense. But here's a true story: a family was surprised by a deep fried chicken head in their box of McDonald McNuggets. Not exactly a happy meal.
And neither is Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg. It doesn't have any genetically altered chickens, but it's surprisingly McDisappointing. Made by Sega's famous Sonic Team, Billy Hatcher is a combination platter of deep fried ideas that never really comes together.
Apparently, crows have taken over the land of the chickens, trapping important political figures in eggshell dungeons. My god, imagine if that happened to Arnold, the new "Governator" of California. He would break out of the egg, declare himself newly born in America and go on to run for President. Eeek!
Anyway, the only apparent hope for the chickens is a little boy named Billy Hatcher. If anyone has the name to do the job, it's this kid. With the aid of a mystical chicken suit, Billy can interact with giant eggs found throughout the stages. Controlling the eggs essentially means being forced to keep up momentum by making wide turns. Turn too tightly and you lose control of the egg.
Hatcher can use an egg as a weapon by way of a butt bounce or a boomerang shot projectile. When you bowl over an enemy, food items appear. Through some kind of osmosis, rolling over food will feed the egg and cause it to grow larger. When it reaches its critical mass, an egg can be hatched, spawning bonuses including little helper creatures. These cover the gamut of elemental attacks, from an ice blast to a fire throw. You can tell them when to attack, but do not control them directly.
Despite this smorgasbord of clever design ideas, they just don't translate well into the actual gameplay. You would think that starting with a standard platformer and then combining the sphere pushing physics of Super Monkey Ball and the insanely full color-palette of Nights would be surefire genius, but something was lost in translation from idea to execution.
For starters, the stages aren't very well designed. You never really feel like a part of these worlds, just burdened with the ungainly task of pushing a chicken embryo down a winding path from A to B. Pushing things is usually synonymous with work, and that's an apt description of the gameplay.
While it has recently become commonplace to give platform game players unlimited lives, Billy Hatcher sticks to the traditional limited lives format. Unfortunately, the control is not accurate enough, so expect lots of missed jumps and moments where you find yourself blaming it on the game and not your own stupidity.
The camera swoops in far too close, making it hard to get a view of your surroundings. Sometimes when you start to careen down a ramp, the camera doesn't catch on quick enough, causing some unfair deaths. The platforming bits often fall victim to this minimal screen view. Those rationed lives will quickly run out.
Then there's Billy himself. While Billy is an ebullient little guy, it's hard to empathize with a kid in a chicken suit. He lets out these yelps in a heavy Japanese accent; it's more odd than charming. It's hard to get behind his cause.
However, the game features a multiplayer mode that better utilizes the gameplay concepts through direct competition. Up to four players can duke it out in fairly large arenas. The combatants must fulfill various goals, such as collecting the most food or beating each other up. It's no Monkey Ball, but it's more than what most mascot platformers offer.
While indeed colorful, Billy Hatcher just doesn't look like a cutting-edge game. Nothing truly stands out besides the Technicolor palette. The polygons are simplistic, the animations are typical and the worlds are environmentally lackluster. It just seems uninspired.
The same thing goes for the audio. Happy-go-lucky tunes will flow out of your speakers, through your ears and away from your memories. The one track that does leave a mark is a very strange theme song that jubilantly chirps along. Also expect plenty of chicken noises and sound effects.
Like the rest of the gaming world, I had high hopes for this one as it really looks cool on paper. But while Billy Hatcher began as a clever concept with promising preliminary stages, it has hatched into a mildly rotten egg.