Retro Game Review: “Chack’N Pop” (Taito, 80s August Special)

Welcome back to 80s AugustThe Splintering’s month-long celebration of the greatest decade since the chicken laid the first egg… or, wait…

Today we’re going to look at Chack’ N Pop, an arcade puzzle platformer released by Taito in 1983.

A horde of monsters has stolen all of Mr. and Mrs. Pac-Man Chack’n’s hearts, so now they don’t love each other, or something like that. In any case, Mr. Chack’n, who I think is a girthy, round chicken, has to recover all of the hearts across a series of single screen challenges. 

In case you forgot the name of the game you’re playing…

To accomplish this goal, not only can Mr. C can climb on ceilings, but he can drop bombs in two directions to break barriers, defeat enemies and destroy the cages containing the hearts. It takes a lot of time to get used to how far the blasts (smoke) will reach, and since these explosions can also kill you, too, you will probably lose a lot of lives in the process. Mr. Chack’n doesn’t get much air with his jumps, so the “flip” between ceiling and floor doesn’t work very well as you expect. This makes the simple act of traversing the stage to be a bit of a chore.  

The mazes are littered with monsta eggs hanging from the ceiling, and you have a short amount of time to assess the stage – and perhaps murder/abort (depending on your politics) those bastards before they start hatching. I found that it was best to try to clear as many as you can as soon as possible, as it is a pain in the neck to try and actually time your bomb drops to defeat them when they start marching around the stage. 

We must stop this senseless video game violence

Being so clearly influenced by Pac-Man, you can also collect fruit for bonus points. If you put in the time to get good, things do start to get a bit more interesting, as the stages progress. There are moving platforms, and even water jars that you can destroy, creating a giant pool at the bottom of the screen that you can swim around in (even though it looks like Mr. Chack’n is killing himself to do it).

Like many other single-screen arcade games from the time, Chack’N Pop’s stages feature bright colors set against a black background. Sometimes the color combinations are a bit over-bright for my taste, but everything on the screen is clear and easy to distinguish, which is the most important thing with some of these old arcade games. The music, however, is a monotonous drone of the same sixteen notes over and over again, and you would be best served to play with the soundtrack muted. 

That’s Chack’n’s swimming face

Similar to Pac–Man, there is a short, cute cinematic interlude every couple of levels. Some of these are pretty fun to watch, making them perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of the game. You will also see an ending once you complete the game’s fourteen mazes, and then it all repeats from the beginning for you to rack up a higher score.  

Not only is Chack’N Pop very tough, but it isn’t very fun. It doesn’t take long for enemies to swarm the screen, and getting used to both your bomb attack and your ceiling jump technique takes far too long. I can’t imagine dropping more than one or two quarters in the Chack’N Pop arcade game, not when there were so many other self-explanatory “pick up and play” contemporaries to choose from. Opinions vary of course, but at this point, but I’m happy to Chack’N Pop it in the trash. 

Monstas to the right of me, monstas to the left of me, monstas in front of me the…

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