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PS2 Review: Chulip

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North American Playstation 2s recently puckered up for some quirky Japanese love in the form of Natsume’s Chulip. In a game featuring the premise to make out with a town full of strangers, players should be able to foretell this is a one of a kind console experience that may not be suited for everyone.

The game’s story puts players in the role of a boy who has just moved to a rural town with his father. The town, however, is famous for an ancient legend, which states whoever kisses underneath the old tree on the nearby hill will be destined to be together happily ever after. When the protagonist dreams about kissing a girl beneath the tree while traveling to his new home, it comes as quite a shock when he runs into the same girl in the town.

After being completely shot down by the girl and labeled the town’s poorest boy, evidently the key to winning her heart is by kissing everyone in sight to build up heart power and reputation and earning the coveted love letter set from an underground dweller who eerily resembles Mother’s Mr. Saturn. Of course, Chulip wouldn’t be much of a game if those tasks were as easy as they sounded as a variety of puzzles will potentially get in the way of true love.

Played as an adventure title, Chulip is ripe with a population of multiple areas just waiting to be lip locked. However, players will have to do more than just waltz up and plant a kiss on people – going in at the wrong time will result in a slap to the face that depletes heart power. If the character’s heart power reaches zero, it’s lights out and game over.

Citizens ready for a kiss will have music notes above their heads, giving players a cue to go in for a smooch. A number of varying tasks must be completed in order for them to feel your mojo. Some merely require waiting until the right time, but others require items or even tasks such as playing red light, green light or making terminal stops while playing train.

Chulip features a neat graphical style that comes alive with certifiably bizarre characters. Forget the meticulous rendering done in most of today’s games; the environments and HUD feature the type of artistic flare made possible by very articulate crayon or chalk drawing. Everything in this game from its head to its toes is strange and some of the characters in Chulip take the cake for weirdest characters ever.

This is most obviously due to the fact the minor kissable characters are underground dwellers that sport characteristics such as reggae ponchos, rockets coming out of their head, full S & M leather gear and other oddities. Chulip features a Japanese cartoony look, which might drive away those who can’t stand the “cutesy wutsey” type of video game.

Chulip is also odd in the way it sounds. Not too many games feature a cappella music but, yet, in Chulip, it just seems to be natural … and catchy. As the game days progress, evenings feature the creepy squalls of what I think are birds and cicadas. Even though some of the animal ambience can grate the nerves, each time of the day is appropriately represented through music and sound.

A host of other strange sound effects ranging from trumpet fanfares, piano slams and bicycle horns accent different actions and can really bring a smile to the face of a player. Also, much akin to Animal Crossing, all of the game’s vocals are spoken in gibberish. While it gives the townsfolk even more creepy, quirky personality, it is yet another feature that could potentially turn a player away from the game.

While running around and kissing raises the character’s level, in the end, the game isn’t finished until players complete a number of linear tasks to make their way through the game. Here, the game play of Chulip is ultimately where the title will hook or detour players, as it depends on a number of trial and error runs and experimentation with day and night cycles to progress through the game.

Progression is made by completing a set series of events, usually by talking to people and performing a number of tasks for them. However, some of the townspeople won’t give you the time of day until your reputation goes up and others are only accessible during a couple of specific hours in the day. Sometimes it can be a little unclear on what exactly players are supposed to do at times and if one doesn’t use the game’s handy instruction book strategy guide, game play can result in wandering for a good chunk of time.

Much like the point-and-click adventure games of old, there is also an element of trial and error to going through the game’s environments. If one doesn’t properly explore and view any warning signs, examining an object can result in a deep dishing of pain. Nothing is more frustrating than having to re-do an in-game day’s worth of work because a player examined a merry-go-around and lost 16 hearts or to dig around in a trash can for salable goods only to pull out a big piece of poopie that kills them.

Re-doing sections also comes at the hand of the save system, which can only be done in one location in the world of Chulip – your home. Players should find themselves returning all the way home in order to save after every key point in the game or else risk losing a decent amount of progress. Of course, making your way home from every single location is a bit of a chore and getting a ‘game over’ far away from home usually means much work will need to be completed once again.

Deciding whether or not to buy Chulip is merely a question of how much quirk one can possibly stand. Everything about Chulip from its premise to its characters is by no means normal, but at the same time, that facet stands as its most appealing quality. Even though the title can be completed in a couple hours time, a number of humorous and surprising elements in the game make Chulip a laugh riot all the way through.

The game comes to the United States as a pretty risky prospect and, while it definitely isn’t a game for anybody, it truly succeeds as being the most original title consoles have seen in quite some time. Even though there are a few game play nuances, Chulip is a great diversion from the ordinary. While it first glance, it might not look so attractive to the casual gamer, Chulip comes as a quick breath of fresh air among a sea of sequels.

Chulip is rated T (Teen) by the ESRB for Crude Humor, Suggestive Themes, Use of Alcohol and Use of Tobacco.

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