Are you hyper-obsessed with chickens — or in the case of Fluster Cluck, chikkens? Perhaps you love the party style couch co-op of the Nintendo 64 era, wiling away your time battling friends for dominance in the combat arenas on Mario Kart? Loot Entertainment aims to bring back those glory days of crazy local multiplayer with Fluster Cluck; but like the horrible controls, their aim seems to really be off. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Imagine for a moment an odd, objective-based sort of Mario Kart battle arena in which you need to bring use a UFO to pick up various objects, including your enemies as you battle, back to the “chikkinizer” to turn them into chikkin for some mega-conglomerate corporation that needs lots of chikkin, because, well… chikkin. Sounds at least partially interesting, right? Get a few friends or family over, grab a couple of beers, and enjoy the insane action that you assume is about to take place. I mean, the game is called Fluster Cluck, one can only assume insane multiplayer action.
The only insane thing about the multiplayer action is the seemingly complete randomness. It’s really insane. The controls feel terribly washy and imprecise, whereas the computer controlled AI can lock onto you and destroy you in what seems like half of the shots that it takes to kill them. In addition, the enemy can now drag your broken down UFO over to the chikkinizer to get bonus points. I tried to fiddle with the controls as much as I could, and even tried the co-op mode with my wife, but both of us could never find the controls more than frustrating. The number of times that we were forced to play the same level over and over due to the AI appearing to have an unfair advantage and drastically clucking us again and again.
Watered Down Chicken
The fact that there is no interactive tutorial is a huge blow to Fluster Cluck. There were oddities to the game, symbols on the side of the screen, and scoring discrepancies that made no sense as I was playing it. It took me hours of putting up with this to finally decide dig through the menus and find a text based tutorial explaining why I was getting zero points sometimes, or why there were variances in the points that enemies would get from chikkinizing my body. Turns out there are a whole bunch of modifiers that affect the game like if you camp the chikkinizer too much. I sure wish the game had actually explained this aspect to me instead of letting me continue to fail based on what I thought were good strategies.
Graphically, the game is uninspiring and boring. Levels and characters are nondescript and bland, not just reminding us of the 64-bit era, but feeling like they came directly from it. Retro inspired does not have to be drab, but each level in Fluster Cluck is a generic theme such as grass or desert, with uninspired layouts that fail to flow well in any way at all. Even the levels that are supposed to be based on a space pirate ship theme are lacking in imagination. Characters are all in UFOs that are mildly customizable, but while flying around the bland levels, there is hardly anything to really make each character vehicle stand out from the others. There are moderate customization options that can change the stats of your character, but none of these ever felt like they made a significant difference to the gameplay.
Time to Chikkinize…Again
The biggest problem with Fluster Cluck is its monotony. It — quite simply — is boring. There is only one game mode, and that is to drag things into the chikkinizer while fighting your enemies and attempting to not let them do the same. While the concept could be fun if there were a better variance to the levels and characters, the rest of the game being dry does not help Fluster Cluck’s cause at all. There is a co-op mode and a versus mode, but I discerned no difference between the two, as even in co-op, I could shoot and destroy my co-op partner in the exact same way I would in a free for all versus match.
Fluster Cluck seemed like it might be fun and have potential as a party game, but I would honestly be more embarrassed to load this up and try to convince people to play it. Some people may be attracted to its simplicity and quick nature, but the frustration will quickly set in as the floaty controls, lackluster design, and poor explanation of the gameplay become apparent. You can buy a lot of things with $9, but Fluster Cluck shouldn’t be one of them.
Fluster Cluck review copy provided by publisher. For full information on scoring, read our Review Policy here.