I Have No Idea What The Title Means

HIGH Insanely strange and unpredictable in all the best ways.

LOW Watching your crewmembers brainlessly fall off the elevator’s edge.

WTF Is that… The leader of North Korea?

I am a diehard Switch fan, and the biggest reason why is the selection of titles in the eShop. I know a certain type of player only wants first-party or big-budget stuff, but it strikes me as more than a little silly to ignore the ridiculous number of unpolished gems and total surprises to be found there. I check in at least once or twice a week, and I’m quite happy to spend a dollar or two on something that makes me raise an eyebrow.

The absolute apotheosis of this routine trawling? Draw Chilly.

To begin with, I can say that Draw Chilly is confounding to me on many levels. I don’t know anything about the developer, Azamatika, but it’s clear their approach towards game development is pretty far off the beaten path in the best possible way. So far off, in fact, that just trying to describe this title comes out like a jumble of random words…

The player controls Vladimir, a man who’s died and gone to purgatory. Once he arrives, he’s immediately drafted into service by the four horsemen of the apocalypse. His task? To raise a large freight elevator 100 floors and reclaim troublesome souls at the same time. During this ascent, Vlad will fight enemies that come in every flavor of monkey and he’ll use powerups derived from worm byproducts to do it.  Occasionally one of the horsemen will pop in to lend a devastating hand, and there’s a shack on the elevator that offers a variety of skeletons who’ll lend Vlad support. On top of all this, the writers have no issue with constantly breaking the fourth wall, so the commentary ranges from Vlad’s working conditions to the state of indie game development.

To strip away the crazy for a moment and focus only on mechanics, Vlad’s elevator is basically the entire world, and it’s a large, flat space with no real features. Monkeys of all varieties will show up and cause trouble, so Vladimir must beat them back to ensure the elevator’s rise.

Vlad carries a simple melee weapon that’s good for a whack or two, but a more effective way of bringing the hurt is to wait for flying chickens that drop powerups. Vlad can hold several kinds at once, so the trick is figuring out which one to use when in order to get the biggest bang possible. The giant wrench is good for mobs, but doesn’t do much on big foes. The shield blob is worthless against melee attacks, but invaluable against incoming bullets. The fan seems like a complete waste of time until Vlad catches a clutch of monkeys loitering at the edge of the elevator… Everything has a use, although it may not be immediately apparent.  

The skeleton buddies who emerge from the elevator’s hut are NPC troops that come with a variety of abilities, and more are unlocked as the campaign progresses – some offer basic attacks, some know karate, there’s a chef that cooks chicken, one flies drones, and more. Since the AI handles them there’s not much for the player to do besides generally guide them in a direction and keep them from falling off the elevator, but they can turn the tide of battle in the right situation.

While the gameplay boils down to Vlad walking back and forth on a platform with a pack of skelebros beating down monkeys, what makes this a good time is that Draw Chilly doesn’t take itself seriously. The animation is full of jokes and zany events, like a movie star’s limousine rolling up to drop monkeys off for battle, or the baboons that zoom in on ziplines. All of the sprite work is full of life and personality, and I never had any idea what was coming next. There are dozens of surprises, dozens of gags, and tons of winks and nudges that kept me wanting to see what the next level would bring.

There is a slight roguelike element to Draw Chilly. Vlad has a certain number of respawns, and if the player runs out, they’ll be sent back to the ground floor while keeping any upgrades they’ve earned along the way — things like increased health, attack power, the ability to hold more powerups, and so on. However, these respawns are refilled if Vlad beats a boss and the devs give him infinite continues while fighting a boss, so it’s a generous system that staves off frustration in the moments when a player is most likely to be defeated. Kudos on that, Azamatika.

Playing Draw Chilly isn’t complicated, but it has just enough nuance to keep it interesting. The story isn’t particularly deep, but absolutely no one will be able to predict the bizarre zigs and zags the script takes. The graphics are bursting with humor and charm, and even now after rolling credits, I’m still pleasantly confounded by this nearly inexplicable project. There were a few moments between unlocks when slaughtering monkeys lost some shine and a couple of bosses had me pulling my hair out (PROTIP: upgrade worm milk capacity ASAP) but I couldn’t stop playing Draw Chilly once I started, and as soon as I finished it, I bought the developer’s previous game. If that’s not a solid recommendation, then I don’t know what is.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Azamatika and published by Hypetrain Digital.It is currently available on PC, Switch, iOS and Android. This copy of the game was obtained via paid download and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 8 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E10+ and contains Fantasy Violence. There’s nothing to be worried about here apart from some sarcastic humor and observations about life. The violence is as cartoony as can be, and none of it is gory or serious. There is no salty language or any sexual content.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: I played the entire game on mute and had no problems. All dialogue is presented via text which cannot be resized, and no audio cues are necessary for play. This game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable.

Brad Gallaway
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