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Chameleon Twist Review

Publisher - Sunsoft
Developer - Japan System Supply
Platform - N64
Type - Adventure
Score - 6/10

Chameleon Twist has got to be the most innovative game released for the N64 in 1997. With very few exceptions, all the games released this year have been nothing really new. We've been getting a slew of racing games, first person shooters, and fighting games. I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with the games we're getting, but it seems like no one's really going out on a limb. Bomberman was a truly different kind of game, but we have seen it before. Chameleon Twist is totally out of left field.

You start the game as an everyday, garden variety chameleon. You're hanging out, minding your own business when you see a talking rabbit in a top hat jump into a pot of magical, churning schmutz. Being a curious little lizard, you hop in right after him. You end up in a very strange world, and your body is changed into a humanoid form. Ah, this is where it gets weird. You fight your way from level to level, gathering gold crowns and hearts. To do this, you are armed with only one weapon.

Your tongue.

Yes this is a weird one, but weird in a very fun way. Chameleon Twist is a third person adventure game that takes you through odd jungles, bomb factories, gargantuan ant hills, and more. Your character has the ability to walk, run, and jump. He also can do many silly things with his tongue. The most basic maneuver is to stick out your tongue. It can shoot huge distances, so far that the camera occasionally has to pan to follow its movement. You use your tongue to spear enemies and items and drag them into your mouth. You can hold enemies in your mouth and spit them out like machine gun fire at other bad guys. That's just whacked. This is an easy feat 'cause when you're packing firepower, the game automatically gives you a targeting beam. You can also do a tongue stand that, when used in conjunction with the jump button, allows you to spring to uncanny heights. If that weren't enough, you can grab anchored posts and columns with your tongue and drag yourself through mid-air to the fixture. This allows you to traverse pits and gaps in the board, and to cover distance quickly. The final, and strangest tongue maneuver also involves latching onto posts. Once you attach your tongue to a post, you can rotate yourself about the post in a sweeping, circular motion. This is used to bridge gaps, but also to trip large enemies. Neato.

The basic one player game is a series of rooms, each containing a challenge or a puzzle to solve. You have to use your unique chameleon abilities to fight or maneuver your way out of trouble. There is also a battle mode in which four players can compete (on a single screen) to the death. You pick up ammo to spit at other players, or you can knock them out of the battle arenas by slapping them with your tongue. Both modes are a blast.

The rooms in the adventure mode are graphically spartan. Nothing is drawn that isn't needed for the game. There aren't many special effects or animations thrown in for the heck of it. The areas also do not look very realistic. I don't see this as a bad thing, it's a reflection of the fact that the boards are puzzles, not playgrounds (like Mario 64).

The music is swell, and it complements the omnipresent wackiness. There aren't many strange background noised, but all the bass noises are augmented by a sturdy vibration from the rumble pak. Chameleon Twist is a good game, but it has a glaring flaw that stops it from being a great game. The camera angle in this game is just plain bad. It has the same problem as Bomberman 64, the camera angle presents a clear picture of what's going on, but the angle is offensive to the eyes. This problem is much worse in Chameleon Twist. I would have enjoyed this game much more if I weren't struggling for a decent view.

When given a choice, there are two camera modes: a mode in which you are always kept dead center, and one where the camera is mounted at a fixed position. The mode where you are the center of the action just isn't as intelligent as Mario 64. It doesn't automatically jump to your back. In many of the rooms, using this mode prevents you from seeing important things in the area. This mode is not as useful as the fixed camera mode.

The fixed camera mode is not that hot either. The game always sets the fixed position. It's usually cinematic, but the damn thing STILL is at the wrong angle to the ground. You aren't guaranteed to see all the important items in the room, but you are less likely to miss something in this mode. The worst aspect of this mode is camera panning. You can pan the camera with the C buttons. If you move the camera two steps to the right or left, you move your character off frame. That just shouldn't happen. This gives you an opportunity to see everything in the room, but it doesn't feel anywhere near natural. Playing this game made me miss the first person, look-around camera angle that you have in Mario 64. If you could switch to a view from which you could see everything from your character's position, it would make this game much, much more fun.

Even with the camera angle problems, the tongue action in this game is such great schtick that it's still fun to play. If you're tired of the status quo, and if you can't handle any more racing games, Chameleon Twist may be the change of pace you're looking for. Let's hope that in the coming months more developers will be willing to take chances like this.