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Tour de 64   

Chameleon Twist

Not a twist of lemon, sadly.

With companies like Nintendo and Rare releasing great platformers on the Nintendo 64, most of the other ones in between were largely ignored. Not that it wasn't for good reason, as those games were some of the best ones created, but it is nice to now catch up on the ones I passed over. Chameleon Twist doesn't offer anything unique or groundbreaking, but it's still a fun, quirky game while it lasts, and is worth checking out after completing the Marios and Banjos of the system.

The thing outwardly apparent from the label is that the main character looks nothing like a chameleon. That didn't leave me with a good impression as I popped the cartridge into the Nintendo 64, as such strange character design usually isn't indicative of quality. After booting up the game, the following story explains the reason, little sense as it makes. A chameleon resting on a stump notices a well-dressed rabbit rushing through the forest, mumbling something about being late. I'm quite sure that seems familiar to me... it's likely this is a ripoff of something. In any case, the chameleon is curious of the rabbit and follows it through a strange portal, where, upon jumping through it, the chameleon is transformed into the bipedal creature shown on the box. Finding itself in a strange new world, it searches for a way back to its own universe.

It's an incredibly nonsensical (and possibly plagiarist...) story, and I was tempted to just shut it off right there and make something up for this entry. It didn't help that I was just coming off one of the worst games ever created in Carmageddon 64. But the show must go on, as they say. After being dropped into the world and gaining control of the deformed reptile, the rabbit mentions how I can go to the training room if I want to learn the game's moves. He fails to tell me where that room is however, and it's actually available on the main menu as opposed to being accessible from the first stage as one would think...

Fortunately, things are pretty simple, so it didn't matter that I never found that room until after I played through the first stage. Running around is as simple as using the control stick, and a somewhat floaty jump is performed from the press of the A button. Holding B lashes out with the tongue, and releasing it will retract it. Using the word “lash” probably made it sound like it whips out really fast, but it actually extends rather slowly, akin to a tape measure. Holding Z unleashes a strange move where our diminutive hero stands up on his tongue, and it wasn't until later when it was required that I figured out holding a direction on the stick when using it causes him to perform an action similar to a pole vault that lets him reach higher platforms than a regular jump.

After hopping over some obstacles, I encounter the first batch of enemies, which must be about a dozen of what look like porcupines marching my way. When whipping out the tongue at them, I discover that several of them can stick to it, then after retracting the tongue the enemies are held in the chameleon's mouth. Unlike a certain green dinosaur from a popular series, this creature can't eat enemies to my disappointment, and instead must spit them out as projectiles. Like a machine gun, I fire them at the other enemies to defeat them. A little farther along, I come across a few poles, which he can use to grab with his tongue and pull himself towards it. These poles can also be used to swing around them, which is used later on to cross gaps.

There are a few other little stage details throughout the game which add some variety to the levels, such as one where the chameleon can lick up fire and light candles that will make platforms appear. However, the stage designs never really become intricate or challenging, and it never feels like it reaches its full potential, making it a fairly easy game. With six stages, none of which are particularly lengthy, it is also on the short side and takes about two hours to complete. It would take a little longer if going for 100%, as each level has between 20-25 crowns to collect, some of which are cleverly hidden. There is also a multiplayer battle mode, but I didn't get a chance to try it out.

The title is an early one, and it shows in the presentation. Graphics are plain with low polygon counts and simple textures, although this leads to a steady framerate that runs smoothly. Most enemies are low-res sprites which can look a little strange in this three-dimensional game, but this also allows for a large number of enemies to appear onscreen. The camera is positioned above the chameleon, providing an almost overhead view that doesn't always show enough of the action. There are a few sections where the camera pans more to the side, making the game behave a bit like a side-scroller. Music is typically upbeat and cheery, and fits the stages even though it is unremarkable.

Though nothing spectacular, Chameleon Twist has its fun quirks. It's rather on the short side, but the base concept is solid albeit simple, and the stages have some variety. It's worth a look for anyone who has already played the popular platformers on the system and still want a little something more.



Jason Ross Senior Editor

08/23/2011 at 11:38 PM

Well now you've left me wanting to hear about Chameleon Twist 2. Doesn't that one have actual chameleons in it? I remember looking at the box art and being puzzled about the character design changes.

...And yes, the familiar part with the rabbit who's late is something from a book, then some movies. It's from "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," by Lewis Carroll. The story is very old, old enough to be a part of the public domain, so there shouldn't be any legal trouble here.

Nick DiMola Director

08/25/2011 at 10:39 AM

This is another N64 platformer I always wanted to check out. I'd never seek it out on its own at this point, but if I were to grab it in an eBay lot, I'd be pretty excited to give it a go.

I miss 3D platformers... :(

Kathrine Theidy Staff Alumnus

09/20/2011 at 08:05 PM

If this game were longer, I'd have likely given it at least another half star. The mechanics, though simple, are solid, but I just never felt like the stage designs let them reach their potential. If it had a few more stages that introduced trickier elements, it really could have been a good game.

It'll be interesting to see how Chameleon Twist 2 ends up. Judging from the label, the character looks more like a chameleon, though is still bipedal. If this is an indication of what the game is like, it could mean that it goes in a different direction as opposed to improving on what was in the first game. I aim to find out real soon.

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