Billy Hatcher And The Giant Egg (GameCube) Preview

By James Temperton 21.07.2003 2

SEGA have been having some problems lately. Since the demise of the DreamCast things have been far from pretty at the headquarters of the people who bring us such gaming gems as Panzer Dragon and Jet Set Radio. The fact that Sonic titles have fallen in standard since the transition from glorious 2D into not so awe-inspiring 3D shocked many gamers and so it would appear that SEGA have turned not to the rodent, but to the egg-cellent idea of eggs and erm, boys dressed up as chickens...

You can just imagine the concept meeting for this title. 'So lads, we need a new game, something different, something egg-citing, something egg-traordinary' so rather than actually think perhaps they just put random words into a hat and picked out four words for the basic concept: fast, eggs, chickens, annoying; and we have to say that Billy Hatcher and The Giant Egg follows its concept perfectly. A game is always going to go wrong when you try to mix quirky Japanese ideas with more 'cool' western values, it was something that to an extent plagued Mario Sunshine and it is even more present here. The basic premise of the game is a very good one, and if SEGA can change about the rest of the game to make it worthy of the egg rolling concept then they could be onto a winner, but the fact is, as things stand they are not.

Screenshot for Billy Hatcher And The Giant Egg on GameCube

The version we played, clearly not finished yet was of a very simple level that involved you having to hatch an egg containing creatures that help you with your quest. According to the more than helpful folks at SEGA there will be a number of these egg encaged creatures that you must free in order to gain help on you quest and thus complete what we can see as being no more than a one trick title. Anyway, back to the start. Things start off well, controlling the egg at speed is great fun, rolling down a slope with an egg ten times the size of the cock-impersonating Billy Hatcher will bring a smile to the face of even the most hardened gamer. To hatch an egg is quite simple, scattered across the levels and gained from the killing of enemies, are pieces of fruit, roll over these with your egg and an oval shaped meter situated at the bottom right corner of your screen will start to fill up, soon the egg will grow in size until it can be filled no more, and then it is time to hatch. A simple 'cock-el-doodle-dooo' worked for us and the egg hatches then daylight breaks and thus good and happy times are restored to the respective section of the game, and once that was done that really was it; oh how disappointed we were.

It would have been fine if what we played was fun and entertaining, but apart from rolling the egg at speed this game was more painful than getting a person with the jitters to clean our your ears with a machine gun, we hope you understand what we mean. Of course the only reason we are being so harsh is because this is SEGA, those of you thinking that the developer have fallen would be right, but if you think this is a truly awful game you would be wrong, it is simply painfully average, and not much fun to boot! Come to a halt with your egg and Billy will let go, which if fair enough, but the games controls are made so that pulling to a sharp stop automatically makes the boy cum chicken hop backwards away from your precious egg. Take this as an example, you have been moving at speed and you suddenly need to stop to prevent yourself from falling into the water, you pull backwards on the control stick, the egg stops, Billy lets go and said egg is left teetering on the edge of a platform just asking to be gently nudged in by a poorly balanced control system, and Billy Hatcher more than happily obliges. With a control system so well made as the GameCube's you would think that Sonic Team would be able to take advantage. The analogue stick can be manipulated so gently, as proven by Amusement Vision in the sublime Super Monkey Ball titles, but this title is a totally different story. Trying to save your egg from danger you gently push forward, Mr. Hatcher shoots forwards like a Gazelle on prozac and your egg, hilariously for all onlookers, plummets to its doom, with any luck followed by the happy clappy chicken boy.

Screenshot for Billy Hatcher And The Giant Egg on GameCube

Controls

Start | Pause
Y Button | Not Used
Z Button | Not Used
X Button | Side Attack, Animal Attack
A Button | Jump
B Button | Toss/ Drop Egg
C Stick | Move Camera
D Pad | Not Used
Control Stick | Move Character
L Button | Centre Camera, Lock onto Enemy
R Button | Egg Echo [cock-el-dod-el-doooo]

We are great fans of all things twee and gimpy, that is perhaps why tempo likes David Dickinson so much, and perhaps why we all like the visuals that this title uses so superbly. Everything looks really solid and detailed. The entire game is alive and the pace of the thing [when you are not trying to manoeuvre your egg away from a cliff edge with the 'help' of the control system] is something that is very much borrowed from Sonic titles. The level design is also of a great standard, but we can't help but think that if this game was fast paced all the way through it would be oh so much better. There are so many parts that call for it all to be played at a steep gradient. At some points you will reach the edge of a platform, and there will be some blue rings, drive your ovulation into one of them and you are fired onto the next piece of land, there are also sections were these are put into a sequence and the game goes into auto-pilot navigating you from one hoop to the next before dumping you at your destination. It is these things are what made us have hope for this game. Whilst we only played one level we have seen a lot of footage of this title and an awful lot of it is played at quite a slow pace. Sonic Team are good at Sonic, as the name might imply, and therefore they are good at making things fast. Mario is the slow fat one, Sonic is the skinny fast one and we would very much like Billy Hatcher to not try and stray away from the traditions of the development house and just be speedy!

Screenshot for Billy Hatcher And The Giant Egg on GameCube

Yes we accept that the version we played was a very unpolished and this is not even close to being ready for retail. So in the coming months and weeks the problems we have had with Billy Hatcher could be resolved. This game is just screaming to ooze fun out of every available crack and crevice, but something is holding it back. Set it free and we are looking at one of SEGA's best games on the GameCube, nay, one of their best in years, but keep things at their current, mediocre state and there will be trouble. We are confident that things will improve the foundations have been set. When we first saw this we were not all that positive, and when we see it now the potential is out, but not exploited.

Screenshot for Billy Hatcher And The Giant Egg on GameCube

Final Thoughts

With visuals more solid than Dale Winton's leathery skin, and sound so fun and chirpy it makes you feel physically sick Billy Hatcher is a classic title being trapped in the shell of an average platformer. However if all is resolved we can see this being nothing less than immensely good fun. SEGA, having problems, well maybe a few, but we are confident they will be mere speckles on the horizon when we play this egg-cellent title next...

Developer

SEGA

Publisher

Sonic Team

Genre

Adventure

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10 (4 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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