Voice Module








In Memory
Sean Pettibone

Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg (Sega for Gamecube)
Sega's Billy Hatcher & the Giant Egg takes Gamecube owners on an entertaining journey that should please fans of the platform genre. Coming from Sonic Team, this inventive platformer has tough puzzles, frenetic action, and occasional burst of speed that mixes elements of Super Monkey Ball, Sonic and Nights to create a unique gaming experience. Some of the puzzles are incredibly hard and the game's elaborate level designs will challenge platform veterans. Sticking it out is worth the effort, since the gameplay is quite addictive. Unfortunately, while the gameplay is ingenious and inventive, the annoying camera system intrudes on the fun far too often. However, these are minor problems. We crack it wide open and discover why this unique title has held up so well over the years. 

As the game begins, we find our hero in Morning Land, peaceful world ruled by the Chicken Elders. Billy is brave kid and saves a small baby chick when it suddenly comes under attack from a group of evil crows. This is just the beginning, as Morning Land comes under attack from the crows. These evil Crows have imprisoned all the chicken elders and thrust the world into darkness. Billy finds himself stuck in the middle of all this upheaval, and he and his friends are the only ones who can save the Chicken Elders. When the game begins, Billy finds a special chicken suit that gives him special powers over the many eggs in the world. Taking the guise of a chicken, our hero is out to defeat the evil crows and restore light to the world of the Chicken Elders. Once in the chicken suit, Billy can grab any egg he sees and use it against the crows. As he collects fruit, the eggs grow larger, giving him added speed and jumping power. When the egg reaches its full size, it begins to glow. When it's glowing, Billy can use his Rooster Call to hatch it. Once he opens these hatched eggs, Billy can collect extra food, lives, coins and, other power-ups. He can also use the eggs to attack enemies, but he has to be careful not to break it. When an egg is cracked, Billy has to find another one and start feeding it all over again. Once Billy's egg cracks open, he loses all of his special powers and is vulnerable to attacks. However, each time an enemy is defeated, they release a fruit that Billy can collect. While many of the enemies are passive, some attack Billy outright and will try to destroy his egg. Additionally, there are specially designed eggs that contain Egg Creatures. When these hatch, the creatures can help Billy solve some cool puzzles. There are several types of these creatures, and they can perform a variety of tasks such as dousing flames, pulling switches, or attacking enemies independently.

Controlling Billy is simple and intuitive and your most difficult task is holding onto the egg that can be a little tricky at points. If you change directions suddenly, you'll lose your grip on your egg. Be careful near edges, since the eggs can also fall off the sides of large platforms. Performing Billy's special moves is simple. Making large jumps and dashing over the areas is easily accomplished thanks to the intuitive controls. Unfortunately, the game's camera system isn't the best and you'll spend a lot of time manually changing the angles. This can be very frustrating because certain angles get in the way of the action much too frequently. This makes it excessively difficult to see where you're going and to locate enemies. While you can compensate for it to some degree, the camera is Billy Hatcher's biggest problem and substantially detracts from what is otherwise a brilliant game. These problems aren't enough to ruin the game, and Billy Hatcher's gameplay is engaging enough to make it worth the effort. Once you get the hang of the controls, things begin to get better, but there are too many areas where Billy's vision is blocked, making for some needlessly frustrating areas.

While the camera system is flawed, Billy Hatcher makes up for it with an engaging storyline that moves along at a good pace. The smartly designed levels rarely get monotonous because Billy has many different tasks in each level with a good mix of puzzles, combat, and action in each. Billy faces hordes of crow enemies on each level, along with a few sub-bosses that take multiple hits to beat. Adding to the fun is that the game allows you to attack your foes in a variety of ways. Billy's crow adversaries can be defeated by rolling the egg or jumping on top of them or throwing the egg to them. This variety in attack definitely makes the game more fun to play. By allowing multiple attacks, it allows you to play in your own style with lots of freedom as well. It definitely has that Sonic Team touch in evidence, especially in the rings, which you can jump into to propel Billy through the levels. There are two types of these, basic jump rings and warp rings, which allow Billy to fly through the air at an incredibly fast rate, definitely reminiscent of Nights and the last few Sonic Games. There are also long stretches where Billy can dash quickly with the ball. These areas feel more like a race than a platform title. The dashing areas feel familiar with play and control mechanics that definitely immediately brings to mind Sega's cult classic Super Monkey Ball series. In addition to the main game, Sonic Team has also included two bonus modes. In the first, you can battle it out with friends via split screen, this is quite a cool addition to the game and adds multiplayer to a genre that's not known for it. Additionally, players who have a GBA can download some cool mini-games to the system. These are cool and add some extra value to the game.

The massive levels are filled with many secret paths to explore and hidden areas to find. With such expansive levels, it is no surprise that each one poses a number of challenges. Billy Hatcher has a cute appearance but, don't be fooled by its 'kiddie-game' shell. While the game is generally straightforward, many levels have hidden areas that can only be unlocked by finding a key, hatching a special egg creature, or defeating a sub-boss. This makes things a lot more complicated than they initially seem. In addition, you'll face standard platform obstacles. For example, on each level, there are multiple jumps, tricky gaps, and puzzles to solve before you can move on. Once you have completed all a few standard levels, you'll face off against a tough boss opponent. These boss encounters are surprisingly difficult and will take several attempts to master. The bosses have weak points, but finding these and defeating them is surprisingly difficult, especially from the third level on. Billy Hatcher's level of difficulty is a bit higher than you'd expect, with harder puzzles that require a bit of brainpower to defeat.

From a visual standpoint, the game's bright and colorful environments are crisply rendered. The objects look great with large levels to explore. The level designs and layouts are easy to understand, and the game really does a good job. The characters themselves are quite cool to look at with chickens and crows making a delightful cast. The protagonist is a cool little dude with some attitude, though the game's cuteness is definitely the prevailing mood. He also slightly resembles Sonic with his oversized gloves and bit red Rooster hat, not that this is a bad thing. The enemies have a similar funky feel to the ones in other Sonic Team games, while some of the weird boss characters seem like something that came out of Nights. Billy Hatcher also features great character animation that brings the game to life. An upbeat pop soundtrack compliments the light-hearted approach perfectly, though it becomes a little annoying after awhile. Overall, the game has solid production values that take good advantage of the Gamecube's power. The overall design is impressive and Billy Hatcher fits in well with Sonic Team's trademark style. It borrows elements of the tream's previous games, which should please fans while adding many touches and gameplay mechanics that give Billy Hatcher a personality and style all its own.

Despite its camera problems, which can make the gameplay needlessly frustrating at points, this is still a solidly entertaining platformer that offers plenty of value, especially for fans of Sonic Team's earlier titles, who should appreciate its allusions to there older games. Billy Hatcher's abundant originality and clever inventiveness are two elements that have been sorely lacking in many games as of late, making this a welcome change of pace. Add in numerous extras, mini-games and the multiplayer mode and you have a game with a lot of depth. The play mechanics are quite interesting and running around with the eggs is a lot of fun. Billy Hatcher's candy-colored appearance may turn off some older gamers, but it's their loss. The game is solidly constructed, surprisingly challenging and lots of fun. While it wasn't perfect Billy Hatcher & the Giant Egg was one of the most interesting experiments on the Gamecube. It's a shame that it never found the audience that it deserved.

Grade: B+

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