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Chameleon Twist

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Reviewed by Scott McCall Chameleon Twist marks Sunsoft's first foray into the publishing market after several years of financial difficulty. Although its recent titles were published by Acclaim, the company was very successful in the 8-bit and early 16-bit days with titles such as Blaster Master, Spy Hunter, Batman, Lemmings, and the Looney Toons titles (i.e., Death Valley Rally and Bugs Bunny: Rabbit Rampage). But Chameleon Twist, unlike its past titles, was developed outside of the company and is merely a port of a Japanese title. The title was developed by Japan System Supply, and it's being distributed by Electro Source and published by Sunsoft. Chameleon Twist is a 3-D action/adventure game aimed squarely at kids. In fact, it's the first game in the same vein as Super Mario 64 to be released in the U.S. -- nearly one and a half years later. It's hard to believe it took that long for a similar game to arrive after Mario 64's incredible success. The story, which seems to be blatantly ripped from Alice in Wonderland, goes something like this: Davy was resting on his favorite stump in the jungle. One day he saw a rabbit hurrying along and watched it jump into a strange pot. Curiously, Davy decided to follow the rabbit into the pot. When the mist lifted, Davy found that he was in a strange land. But he also noticed that his shape had changed. He was standing on two legs instead of four, wearing gloves and a backpack. Thus, the adventure begins to find that rabbit and find his way back home. Before starting up the game, you must make sure there isn't a Controller Pak plugged in. Chameleon Twist has a built-in EEPROM chip to save data and subtly supports the Rumble Pak. But the game won't work if a Controller Pak is plugged into any controller. Once the game is started, you are presented with several different options. You can play a great training mode, start a new game, enter the Battle Mode, change some options, load a new game, or check out your best times (Ranking) on each level. The training mode gives you an opportunity to practice some moves you will absolutely need later on in the game, including a machine gun attack, target practice, a tongue high jump, quick movement, and quick rotation. Starting a new game will enable you to pick from one of four save slots and will let you pick the chameleon you want to use. All of the chameleons are exactly the same, but there are four different colored ones for the Battle Mode. You can choose Davy (the blueish-purple chameleon), Linda (the pinkish-red chameleon), Fred (the orangeish-yellow chameleon), or Jack (the greenish-blue chameleon). The options mode lets you choose from stereo or mono, plus you can do a sound test and clear ranking data. There's also the Ranking mode, which enables you to check out the best times on each level, and the Battle Mode, which will be explained in more detail later. The first thing you'll probably notice is that Chameleon Twist's view is more overhead than Super Mario 64. This can vary from level to level or room to room, but that's generally the case. Although the game is most similar to Super Mario 64, it also got a little bit of Yoshi and Zelda sprinkled into it, because the chameleons can eat enemies and spit them back and because some of the rooms inside of a level have little puzzles for you to figure out before you can move on. Control in Chameleon Twist is actually very good -- that is, once you get used to it. It can seem difficult at first to perform the actual moves, but once you understand how to do them, the game is very responsive to what you do. As you can probably imagine, the analog Control Stick is used to control your character. The A button is used to jump/talk. The B button is used to unroll your tongue. Once your tongue is unrolled, the chameleon stops and you use the Control Stick to move it many different ways, up to a certain distance. The Z button is used to do a tongue-stand when you don't have any enemies in your mouth. Just stopping and pressing Z will make it stand straight up. But you'll also need to master the tongue-vault, which is done by running, pressing the Z button to stick, and pressing the A button to jump when its arch is at the appropriate angle. The Z button is also used to spit enemies out of your mouth, one at a time. And you can press the B button to do a machine gun attack. Finally, the R button will bring up a sight for aiming, the L button will switch between manual and automatic camera, and the C buttons are used to control the camera angle. Speaking of which, Chameleon Twist has two major problems, and one of them is the camera. It's not so hideously horrible that it's unplayable, but you will sometimes gripe about the camera angle you get. I personally think it's better than Bomberman 64, though. Of course, camera angles in three-dimensional games are one of the most difficult and time-consuming things to implement. In fact, this is one of the major reasons why The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time is taking so long to come out. Anyway, although most rooms in each level let you choose between automatic and manual, there are a few rooms that only offer automatic or only offer manual. Nevertheless, you'll always find a camera angle that's playable but not necessarily always perfect. The object in Chameleon Twist is to get to the end of the level. There are six levels in the game, of which you only have to play four to beat the game. There's Jungle Land, Ant Land, Bomb Land, Desert Castle, Kids Land, and Ghost Castle. With the exception of Desert Castle and the first part of Jungle Land, the game takes place inside enclosed areas. Inside the enclosed areas, you will go from room to room. In some rooms, you just have to get to the other side. Of course, there could be enemies and traps along the way. Or you might need to use your tongue skills to cross bottomless chasms. In other rooms, you have to figure out a small puzzle in order to open the door on the other side. For example, you might have to beat all the enemies in the room or you might have to hit a special switch. Chameleon Twist uses a different kind of lives/continue system than you're used to, which makes this a catch-22 situation. You start the game with 10 hearts. Any time you get hit or any time you fall off a ledge, you lose a heart. However, you'll find hearts along the way that restore your meter. If you lose all your hearts, you have unlimited continues if you want to continue your quest. Whenever you fall off a ledge, or even when you continue, you start at the beginning of the individual room you were in. Also, at any time, you can press start and pick "Save," and it will save your items and room location. That means if you're in a room that's nearly at the end of a level, then you don't have to start the level over if you die or continue your game at another time; you'll start in that same exact room! Just remember to save yourself, because the game doesn't automatically save for you. That's a very nice feature to have, but it also means that it makes the game much easier, as you are always in the exact room you died in. Inside each of the six levels, there are a certain number of crowns hidden throughout. There could be anywhere from 21 to 25 in one level. Although collecting crowns is not required, if you collect more than 20 of them in all six levels, then a special, hidden stage opens up. You'll probably end up with 12 to 18 crowns per level just by going through them. But I recommend that you go through all the levels to get them all (or at least most of them). Much like finding all the stars in Super Mario 64 or the challenge points in Shadows of the Empire, finding all the crowns in Chameleon Twist is a fairly rewarding experience. Some of them are cleverly hidden, but none of them are really impossible to find. Also of note is that at the end of each level, you'll face a boss. All of the bosses in Chameleon Twist are both original in design and in how you must beat them. But like the rest of the game, they're not overly difficult to figure out how to beat. And that's really the second major problem with the game: it's just too short and easy. Chameleon Twist also includes a special battle mode. Anywhere from two to four people can participate in it (sorry, you can't play the computer). The first thing you must do is choose your chameleon. You can also set a handicap so players who aren't as good have a fair advantage. The more stars you give someone, the easier it is to guard and the less likely it is you'll take damage. Next you pick your battle stage. At this screen, you can press the R button to choose the background music or change the time limit. There are eight battle stages to pick from. The first four stages are for the Battle Royal. The object is to knock each other off the stage. Once you're knocked off, you're out of the game until there's one player left standing. The other four stages are for the Time Trial. This mode, in my opinion, is more enjoyable. The object of this one is that the player who spends the least amount of time off the stage is the winner. So if you get knocked off, you can jump right back on and get back into the action until the countdown timer reaches zero. So how do you knock someone off? Well, your main method of attack is to use your tongue. But they can also use their tongue to block yours, in addition to jumping and dodging all over the place. There are usually some blocks you can put in your mouth and spit at your opponent, too. Using the machine gun attack will send them flying. Furthermore, there are four items that can be picked up and eaten. These items will make you (or your opponent) bigger or smaller, which makes it harder or easier to pick on you. When it comes to execution, Chameleon Twist's Battle Mode is surprisingly fun. It's obviously nowhere near the level of a Mario Kart 64, GoldenEye, Diddy Kong Racing or Bomberman 64 multi-player match, but I think it holds its own against Star Fox 64's Battle Mode. It's not something I'll play often, but I think it's nice to have the option available. Now let's move on to the graphics and sound. It's no secret that Chameleon Twist isn't the most visually impressive game out there. And, yes, it's a little bland, but the graphics are solid overall. You'll find almost zero pop-up and clipping. Plus, some of the later levels do get better looking. And as far as sound goes, it's pretty average as well. Like the graphics, level design and everything else about the game, the music is aimed at kids. You'll find everything from happy tunes to more happy tunes to upbeat tunes. The sound effects are just there, and there isn't any voice. Basically, there's nothing memorable here. Overall, Chameleon Twist is the sleeper game of 1997. Yes, it's too short and easy. No, it's not worth purchasing just for the four-player mode. But don't let the kiddie-like nature of the game deter you. Otherwise, you'll be missing out on a highly enjoyable and fun adventure game. I definitely encourage you to rent it. For some, it may be worth a purchase (like me). For others, a weekend rental will suffice. Just make sure you give it a try.

Graphics: 3.1 out of 5 Sound: 2.9 out of 5 Control: 4.0 out of 5 Gameplay: 3.9 out of 5 Lastability: 2.8 out of 5 Overall: 3.6 out of 5

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