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Comprehensive Reviews

Saturday Specials: The Chopping Block Edition

Rating 3.00 out of 5

Being a former comic book collector, I’m all about the idea of a universe.  It adds a bit of cohesion to your products, as long as it’s done well and easily recognizable.  That appears to be what Gamerizon is attempting to do with their Chop Chop games, and I don’t have a good feel for where they’re going with it yet.  However, it could be real interesting once they get there.  The first three games in the Chop Chop “universe” are Ninja, Runner and Tennis, which are 3 very different games in concept, the Ninja and Runner have a lot of similarities.  Of the three I’d say Chop Chop Runner is my favorite, though the others certainly do have some merit.  So let’s get chopping, shall we?

Chop Chop Ninja

Chop Chop Ninja is a cute little platform game staring – you guessed it – a ninja. Your true love has been turned into a green statue, and you must collect the necessary elements to create a potion that will cure her.  It’s pretty standard platforming fare, and honestly feels a bit like Chop Chop Runner broken into levels.  The controls are a tad awkward, and certain game play elements are pulled off better in other, even much older games.  Still Chop Chop Ninja does have its charm, and there are moments when the dialog is amusing.

Each level sends you on a quest to find elements that will help you concoct potions to try and revive your true love.  Throughout these levels you will encounter everything from Samurai to scorpions to floating skull heads that will try and keep you from the prize.  Using your ninja attack skills (and some extra trinkets you gather along the way) you’ll be able to dispatch these foes and recover the potion elements.  Don’t think the bad guys will be your only obstacles, however.  Bottomless cliffs, large spikes and various other assorted environmental hazards will not make this journey easy.  On the plus side you can pick up power ups that will do things like strengthen your attack, help you jump farther, and even give you temporary invincibility.  There are even three masks you can collect per level, though I’m not sure what they do because I haven’t been able to collect all three on any given level yet.

Even Dummies Need To Die

To move your ninja you tap left or right of the character.  To jump you tap up and away from the ninja in the appropriate direction.  To fight a bad guy you tap behind the bad guy, roughly in the spot where you want to hit it.  In theory this all sounds good, but in practice there’s a fine line separating the three types of movement, and it’s not difficult to cross that line at an inopportune moment.  This especially comes into play at times such as when you’re on a moving platform and you try to run, but instead you end up jumping.  Or, you’re trying to attack a bad guy and you accidentally jump instead.  It may not seem like much, but one action at just the wrong moment can cost you quite a bit. You do get used to it after a while (mostly), but I still find myself making more mistakes than I’d like to.

The graphics are really the highlight of the games in the Chop Chop series.  Chop Chop Ninja set a decent standard with bright, colorful characters and fairly detailed backdrops.  There are a nice variety of characters, and while the artistic style of each is the same they all have a unique look.  I could easily see this being a series on the Cartoon Network.  The only thing I don’t care for is that the animation for the bad guys really seems a bit stiff.  It kind of reminds me of old Hanna Barbara cartoons.

The sound effects are okay.  There’s nothing really to distinguish one creature from another, which is a bit of a shame, and everything else is pretty much standard hitting and kicking sounds, with an occasional explosion or something thrown in.  The music isn’t bad, but it sounds more like the backdrop of a Chinese restaurant than an intense action game.

There’s nothing particularly extraordinary about Chop Chop Ninja, but it has the potential to be a nice, solid platform game.  Unfortunately, the so-so controls simply reinforce the fact that the game is just average.  I highly suggest checking out the lite version first to make sure this meets all your ninja fighting needs.  Maybe one of these days we’ll get a Chop Chop game starring the ninja but with 3D characters like Chop Chop Tennis.

Final Verdict: On The Fence
App Store Link

Chop Chop Runner

Normally I’d start out a review about these “run as long as you can” type games by saying I’m not really into the genre.  The more I play this type of game, however, the more I realize that’s not true.  In fact, this style of game play can get quite addictive.  Maybe it’s because it’s so simple to play.  Maybe it’s the fact that a typical game is quick, so you can get quite a few in over a short amount of time.  Whatever the case is, Chop Chop Runner has cemented this style of game play in my “favorites” list from now on.

So what’s all that different about Chop Chop Runner from the rest of the pack?  Honestly, not a whole lot.  The general goal is to keep your ninja alive as long as you can.  He automatically runs for you, so all you have to worry about is jumping and attacking.  To jump you simply tap the screen.  The longer you hold the screen, the farther he’ll jump.  To attack you tap the screen twice.  One thing that I like is if you jump and overshoot a platform, and if there happens to be a bad guy near by, you can tap the screen again and the game will act like you simply double-tapped in the first place to attack.  It’s sort of like a “Hail Mary” ninja play.

Flame On...

You get to fight an interesting variety of creatures.  You start off with simple samurai (why do ninja and samurai always fight?), and then you get floating skulls and scorpions.  I’m guessing later on that there will be snakes as well, since the villain’s roster seems to have been swiped from Chop Chop Ninja.  That’s okay, though, because all bad guys are dispatched with one hit, so the type of villain really doesn’t matter.  There are also exploding barrels that will help propel you forward, and rockets you can launch that don’t seem to do a whole lot (unless they can get rid of bad guys, though I’ve never actually seen one hit a bad guy).  There are crates as well, but the crates don’t seem to do much either, and you can run right through them.  There’s a scoring system that starts at F and goes to A (including E!), and so far I’ve managed to make it to C, so yeah, I’m not very good at the game.  OpenFeint integration gives you leader boards and 12 achievements to master.

The visuals have a nice cartoon look to them, which seems to be the standard for Chop Chop games.  Everything is bright and colorful, and most objects are finely detailed.  The background is a bit sparse to begin with, but as you get further on things start popping up to fill the landscape.  My main complaint with the graphics would be that they could use a bit more animation.  Even the things that move feel a bit stiff, and unless you’re breaking something or launching a rocket there really isn’t much movement beyond the characters themselves.  Sound effects are pretty basic.  The one thing that actually stands out is the fact that the ninja sounds like he’s running on a wooden floor, even though you’re outside!  The music is okay, but really sounds more like a dance club mix than the soundtrack to an action game.

Is this a pretty standard “keep on running” game?  Yeah.  Is it fun?  Oh yeah.  You really can’t beat ninjas, scorpions and snakes.  The “combat” is a nice touch, and I do wish the randomizer would lean more towards putting bad guys in, because runs with very few bad guys tend to be boring.  I would definitely suggest checking Chop Chop Runner out, even if you already have several of this type of game.

Final Verdict: Recommended
App Store Link

Chop Chop Tennis

Chop Chop Tennis is sort of the odd man out at the moment.  While the first two entries in the Chop Chop universe were variants of the same theme, this game takes the Chop Chop universe into the wide world of competitive sports.  What surprises me is that the game is pretty much a standard tennis game.  I really expected some sort of NBA Jam or Mutant League style twist on the game play, given the hero of the universe up to this point has been a sword wielding little ninja.  In fact, the ninja isn’t even a playable character that I’ve seen yet (maybe I’ll get to unlock him at some point?)

Hopefully I’ve laid down enough hints, but this is a tennis game.  You have practice and single player modes, and within single player you can play singles, doubles or tournament mode.  There’s also multi-player via Bluetooth and WiFi, but I haven’t had the opportunity to experience play against real human opponents.  Too bad, because then I might stand a chance of winning a game or two.  Sadly, I’ve gotten more enjoyment out of the practice modes than from the main game.  In practice mode you can select wall practice, cannon practice or practice play.  Practice play is just like the real thing without points, so I skip that humiliation.  In “wall” mode you must hit a target on the wall as many times as you can.  It’s kind of like racquetball with a set target and no opponent.  In “cannon” mode a cannon launches balls at you, and you must hit a target on the other side of the net that moves after each shot.  While I’m no good at these modes either, at least I’m not constantly being beaten by anyone.

Quite A Jump Shot

If you play single player with either singles or doubles you get to choose how many games (3, 5 or full set) and the difficulty level (Easy, Medium, Hard and Expert).  Personally, I can’t seem to win a single game even at Easy, so you’ll have to explore the rest of the options yourself.  In tournament mode you pick one of three tournaments, and rounds are best out of three.  I assume that the different tournaments equate to different difficulty levels, but no matter for me because I can’t win any of those either.  There are several different characters to choose from, but I haven’t noticed that they make a difference one way or another in game play, so I guess it’s just whichever character you think looks the coolest.  The players automatically run, and you use a set of defined strokes to determine what kind of shot you want to make.  It really seems like a fairly intuitive control system, so maybe I’m just not executing the swipes correctly.  All I know is that you can only hang your head in shame so many times, even if it is just electronically.

Graphically the game falls nicely in line with others in the series in that the characters are bright and colorful and the backgrounds are nicely detailed.  Unlike the other games, however, the animation is much less stiff in Chop Chop Tennis.  Of course, you only have up to four characters on screen at a time, but it’s still an improvement that needs to carry through to future Chop Chop games.  The sound effects aren’t anything to “wow” about, but they do a decent job of conveying a bustling tennis court with interested fans.  There is no music, though, so when the fans are silent you almost feel like there should be crickets chirping.

Truth be told, while I don’t have a lot of experience with tennis games on the iPhone, Chop Chop Tennis not a bad little game if you’re looking for a standard tennis game with cute characters.  The thing is, I can play that on my Wii, and I didn’t have to pay extra for it.  I was really hoping for something a little more over the top like the other Chop Chop games.  Still, if you’re a tennis fan, you might find this quite enjoyable.

Final Verdict: On The Fence
App Store Link

Well, I’m a couple weeks out from when I first planned this, but there you have my first look at the Chop Chop universe.  I’m not completely sold yet, but I do think there’s a lot of merit here, and I know there’s at least one more Chop Chop game in the works, so I will definitely keep on top of this universe to see how it progresses.  I have no idea what the next Saturday Specials will bring, because that way I don’t have to commit to anything right now.  Until then…

Quick Looks link: [All About Quick Looks]

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