Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg (GameCube) Review

By James Temperton 26.10.2003

"Right then lads, we need to make a new and exciting game, but to be perfectly frank I can't be bothered to think of a logical idea, so...Frank, what did you have for dinner last night? Chicken, right, and what about you Eric? An egg; interesting." Two hours later and Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg was born!

When approaching a game like this you always have to be careful. We all know the talent held within SEGA and for some reason we are always expecting stunning games every time, sadly expectation has been one of the biggest problems facing the company who bought us the mascot-fantastic Sonic. Since the demise of the DreamCast it is no great secret that the company has been struggling, and it is also no great secret that the games have been getting more and more average by the day. Whilst there have been some standout points one thing that springs to mind here is a word that we shall call the word of the day 'average'. Yes, this is a dull, middle of the range, nice and nasty, simple and forgettable platformer that will leave you feeling confused and if you worship the very ground SEGA walk on, bitterly, bitterly disappointed. So set your faces to severely pissed off and prepare for the truth, if you can handle it of course.

Platforming is perhaps the most packed genre of them all, there are so many games all jumping up and down trying to grab your attention with various coos. Be it innovation, stunning visuals, a well-known franchise or in many cases nothing at all. With only a few titles making the grade many will simply fall fairly unnoticed and slump off to cry in some distant corner known as the 'Super Sale Mega Reduced Great Value Tat Shelf'. So where does Billy Hatcher fit in? Average, yes, that word again. Gameplay is always the key feature in any game, no matter how much of a pixel-junkie you are it is how the game plays that will make you want to play it. Nicely enough the controls have been tweaked to perfection and you can rarely spot too many faults in the lovely egg-rolling physics. To be honest we are disgusted as to just how this game works. It tries to do two things and gets stuck between them; the fast paced all out fun-fun action of Sonic mixed with the puzzles and interaction associated with the portly plumber. When actually moving the egg you are never quite sure what you are meant to be doing. Go too fast and your faithful egg will propel itself over the side and Game Over is you prize, going too slow and you could miss a jump, or just get plain bored. What is in front of your eyes most of the time is fine, from the off it seems to be a wonderfully innovative and thrilling platformer, but after a few hours of play it becomes stale and repetitive.

Screenshot for Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg on GameCube

When you move from level to level you get the rather worrying feeling that you have been here before, and you just about have. A fresh lick of paint and some new obstacles, puzzles and visual niceties greet you on each level, but you can see where the developers just couldn't be assed to code out totally new levels. The excitement at the start is sucked out by pure repetition and lack of new ideas being carried through the game.

The egg is where it is all at, with platformer's nowadays needing some sort of gimmick to succeed SEGA were not going to miss a trick where this is concerned, but the lack of variety is shocking. When you have pushed about a giant egg using it to kill foes, unlock puzzles and various other menial tasks there is very little else left. One positive thing of mention are the puzzles some of them are good and challenging, allowing you to partake in much cranial scratching. For example there is one puzzle were you spot a switch surrounded by fire, to get to the switch without getting Billy roasted and ready for a full Sunday dinner, you will have to find, grow, and hatch a blue water egg, which when ready will hatch and release a creature that can extinguish the fire. Other puzzles involve the various other types of egg scattered about the game but some are far more random and just plain stupid. A doorway is locked...the solution? You have to kill everything on the level to progress, where are the clues? Nowhere to be seen, and after numerous stupid 'puzzles' like this your blood will start to boil and seep out from under your eyes; perhaps. There are also some special eggs, containing some special characters, find the right egg and you'll somewhat bizarrely hatch Sonic...from an egg...we're confused.

Screenshot for Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg on GameCube

Its not all negative though, you always expect some excellence from the Sonic Team, and here it is demonstrated in the physics. We briefly mentioned them earlier, so lets get into a tad more detail now shall we? Whilst the idea of rolling about an egg dressed as a chicken is a somewhat bizarre and simple one thanks to the talents of the developer it is an experience that is great fun. The physics are totally believable, eggs will wobble, veer to the left and the right and will even crack at times and when you break open totally it is a real video-camera moment. Of course the eggs are not totally like their real-life omelette making counterparts. Never before have we successfully used eggs to crush wooden boxes, bounce like a pogo stick, blast through walls and roll down hills as a form of transport. Of course without some unrealistic physical properties this game would fall flat on its rather eggy face before it even took off, so there are no problems to report here really. One problem we encountered all the time was changing direction quickly and leaving the egg behind, often right on the edge of a platform, getting the damn thing back without hitting it over the edge is something of a challenge and one that will normally end in failure absolute.

Only announced a little while before the actual release of this title was the multi-player mode, which certainly shouldn't be viewed as a simple tagged on extra. With up to four players being allowed to pick up a controller and enjoy the oval fun over a range of multi-level arenas. From the simple task of hatching as many eggs as possible during a time limit to attacking each other its all here and it is all great fun. If we are to be totally honest about it the multiplayer mode is a better experience than the single player mode. Hatching eggs is simple, there is, ingeniously, an egg shaped meter on-screen whenever you are attached to a yoke-filled orb. To make the meter fill up you simply have to run over fruit and slowly the egg will get bigger and bigger and controlling it will get trickier and trickier until it is ready to hatch!

Screenshot for Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg on GameCube

Graphics wise, whilst this title is shockingly sugar-sweet we couldn't help but love the looks of this title. The locations are so bright and vibrant, and whilst variety in locations is somewhat on the miniscule side of things, everything rolls along at a lovely pace. It is all superbly animated, you just can't see the seams and the draw-distance is allowed to go on and on thanks to a good solid 3D engine. Textures are very sharp, and the locations loose none of the sharpness when you get closer to them. If we were to be picky we might point out that SEGA don't seem to be willing to move anywhere from their DreamCast days, but the thing is we just love the style. The GameCube is capable of much better but what we have here is a supreme example of eye-pleasing graphics used to the perfect effect.

So with colourful and vibrant looks, how does the sound fair up? Well when we say that your mute button will be firmly pressed after just seconds of using the main menu you might just get the idea that we are far from impressed. Just like small girls with dolls in horror movies there is nothing scarier in videogames than children cheerily singing on the soundtrack. Every time you select an option you get a 'lovely' chicken noise, after a while the only noise we wanted to hear was the sound of bird necks being rung. The actual game music should simply be made illegal, Billy, like the goat being a kid, shouts stupid little phrases and 'witty' one-liners in a putrid voice. The music is all stupid happy notes and squeaks and pops and all the things that are just plain piss you off superbly.

Screenshot for Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg on GameCube

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

SEGA have tried to bring us something new here, but it all deflates far too quickly and becomes nothing more than an average adventure that few will wish to experience. Repetitive objectives and some laborious puzzles will have you crying at times, but then you are inspired by the superb egg rolling physics or one of those obligatory moments of Sonic Team genius. We loved the multiplayer, we hated the music, we loved the graphics but hated the game after ten hours of play. It all makes for one very average experience. It's a solid example of how to do a platformer, but those of you waiting for a SEGA masterpiece; beware.

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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