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Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg Package Art
†GENRE
††Platformer
†DEVELOPER
††Sonic Team
†PUBLISHER
††Sega
†NUMBER OF PLAYERS
††1-4
†CONNECTIVITY
††no
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Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg

Since Sonic Team and Sega began bringing games to the Nintendo GameCube, weíve seen some excellent games in the past couple of years. Phantasy Star Online Episodes I and II may have been a slightly tuned "rehash," but it is still an excellent multiplayer title. The same can also be said of Sonic Adventure 2: Battle. Sonic Team isnít done with thinking up new ideas and richly colored environments, however, as proven by their latest platforming effort, Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg. This innovative blend of originality and cute art direction makes Billy Hatcher one of a kind, but at the same time a slight disappointment. While the game uses a new take on an already populated genre, it still borrows from many other games, especially Super Mario Sunshine. All in all, while it lacks depth, it makes up for it in its catchy music, beautiful visuals, and the classic Sonic Team innovations.

visuals

Part of the main concern for anyone looking into a game like Billy Hatcher (for some odd reason) is the ďcuteĒ graphics. Yes, the visuals in this game are extremely cute, but they are also amazingly well done and filled with so many colors that it boggles the mind. Anyone who is worried about ďcuteĒ visuals, donít worry, they wonít make you turn into a three-year-old. Besides, youíre missing out on several wonderful titles such as Nintendoís Animal Crossing, AgeTecís puzzler Magic Pengel for the PS2, and, God forbid, the GameCube powerhouse, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Now that thatís out of the way, Billy Hatcher is definitely one of the best looking Sonic Team titles to come along in quite some time. The character design is as brilliant as it is hilarious, the level design is wonderfully executed, and the animations are nearly mastered. If it werenít for the occasional glitch and the painful hits to the frame-rate, Billy Hatcher would be nearly visually perfect.

Billy Hatcher, his friends, and his enemies alike all look excellent and you can easily tell the creation processes was very involving. While many enemies come back throughout several different levels, they all still have that unique Sonic Team look to them. Billy looks great and animates very well in his chicken suit. If weíve learned anything from videogames, itís that when all else fails, use chickens for added hilarity. As far as bosses go, size matters and these behemoths look awesome. Every boss is filled with intricate details, almost as if they belong in some kind of Yu-Gi-Oh! anime. The levels themselves are fascinating, filled with brilliant colors schemes and marvelous design, with plenty of ramps, traps, hoops, and of course platforms.

As with most all platform titles, the camera used in Billy Hatcher is frighteningly bad. While better than most cameras out there, it will still get stuck behind a wall when youíre trying to solve a quick puzzle, your life on the line. It simply isnít as active as the character youíre controlling. Other faults include various map bugs, which are sometimes too easily found in corners within multiplayer maps. The character can easily slip through these, egg in tow. During a friendly match, this can be completely hilarious, but in a heated battle, itís just downright frustrating. Rounding out the major complaints is the frame-rate, which takes a hideously awful hit whenever thereís about five enemies on the screen at once during a lot of action. Once you go from a smooth 30fps down to 25 then 20, it goes from simply noticeable to downright distracting, not to mention ugly.

These complaints aside, Billy Hatcher still has a tremendous sense of artistry, as evidenced by all titles brought to the table from Sonic Team.

audio

While not as deep as the visuals, the music and sound effects found in Billy Hatcher are magnificently captured and fit right at home in the quaint action title. If you thought the visuals were cute, you havenít heard anything yet. The main theme is filled with upbeat tempos with a chorus of children singing ďLa-la-la-la-la-laĒ. While itíll take you aback slightly at first, trust me, this song will run through your head for days. The soundtrack within the game is just as cute, and wonderfully put together within each level. The sound effects are your usual biffs and bams, but the main draw to them is the voice work. The charm about any title from Sonic Team is that they are internationally friendly. You donít need to understand Japanese, English, or Cambodian in order to enjoy their games. Each bit of voice-work is brilliantly captured and where some may add in a long, drawn out monologue, Billy and company merely let out an expression-filled ďMeh!Ē or ďGugh?Ē It may sound strange, but itís simply brilliant.

gameplay

The main thing that Billy Hatcher has going for it is that itís a completely different game from anything else weíve seen, even from Sonic Team. Thatís pretty hard to do, considering that this is coming from Sonic Team, one of the most influential and innovative developers of our time. While it still shares different concepts from other, more recent titles, there are plenty of new ideas here to keep it fresh. Who ever thought that hatching eggs would be fun?

You are Billy Hatcher, a young boy who is stuck in the middle of a conflict between the crows and the chickens. Already it sounds completely peculiar, but thatís just the tip of the iceberg. Billy has the innate ability to hatch powerful eggs and use their contents to his advantage. He can befriend the strange animals that hatch or pick up useful power-ups that will aid him in his quest. Everything sounds completely bizarre and itís oh-so-delicious. There are several eggs strewn about each level and every egg has a different item or animal hiding inside, depending on the outer design on the shell. Once Billy picks up an egg and rolls it around, he can feed it with bubbles of fruit that can be found anywhere and everywhere. Once it grows big enough to be hatched, Billy can hatch it with a powerful ďcookala-doo-dooĒ chant. If an animal jumps out, he can befriend it to do his bidding. Every animal has a different element such as wind, fire, ice, lightning, water, et cetera, so it can also be used to clear elemental obstacles. For example, water can put out fire, ice can destroy water, fire can burn grass, and so on.

All of this egg hatching is a lot of fun, especially since your egg is also your weapon. You can roll over enemies or just toss your egg at them and have it spin back to you. Overall navigation is simple and anyone whoís played any recent platform title should know what to expect. There are no huge control issues here, but rolling eggs needs a slight learning curve so you know what to do before you fall off ledges or roll into a raging fire. Once you get the hang of it, itís a blast. If anything should mar the smooth controls, it would have to be the aforementioned camera system.

The main problem with Billy Hatcher is the difficulty throughout the game. There are roughly six areas that Billy can explore and each one has about five different levels. The game can be completed in about 10-15 hours and maybe less for experienced gamers. As mentioned before, the bosses look amazing, but each one is completely predictable and easy as cake. All the player has to do is dodge the attacks and wait until the enemy knocks themselves out. Defeating a boss seems more like insult to injury rather than victory. The final qualm that can be taken from this title is that collecting Emblems is a lot like collecting Shines from Super Mario Sunshine. While Billy Hatcher is slightly more entertaining, it ruins its overall fresh feel with having to hunt and collect all of these items. After a while, it seems redundant, especially after spending a lot of time with SMS.

multiplayer

Thereís a four-player multiplayer battle mode here which extends the life of Billy Hatcher, with three different settings: Time, Hatch, and Survival. Time mode is exactly that; whoever gets the most points by defeating the other players or hatching eggs wins. Hatch mode is a contest to see who can hatch the most eggs and the more rare an egg is, the more points the player gets. This is probably the most heated and most frustrating mode since if another player kills you, they receive all of the points you have. Say youíre playing to 30 and you have 28 while your friend has 3. If he defeats you with his animal or egg, he receives your points and automatically wins the match. Survival is a last man standing mode. If you run out of lives, youíre out and the last man standing wins. It all provides plenty of multiplayer mayhem, but if youíre looking for depth in a title like this through multiplayer, you may want to check out Sonic Adventure 2: Battle.

overall

Over my experience with Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg, I realized that not only is it a great game, but Sonic Team is still a brilliant developer with plenty of new things that they can show us as gamers. If you sit down to play this game, don't go in thinking itís just the usual platformer because it isnít. Itís a Sonic Team platformer. While itís a bit short and sweet, itís still worth your dollars, especially at a lower price tag. It is definitely not without its faults, but from what Iíve played, theyíre worth overlooking. Check it out, see what you think, and go lay an egg.

final score 8.2/10





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Staff Avatar Austin Starr
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"If life's not beautiful without the pain / well I'd just rather never ever even see beauty again"


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