I maybe have a soft spot for Chameleon Twist, but I’d have difficulty recommending it. It’s early-3D wreckage; one of those games that didn’t quite figure out its new dimension and just kind of flopped. But I’m all about getting closure on a series, so I dove recklessly into its one and only sequel, Chameleon Twist 2.
Part of my affection for the first game has to do with the fact that I played it as a child and have warm memories of it. I don’t recall ever playing Chameleon Twist 2, so I’ve gone into it a bit fresh. My expectations are low, but let’s keep an open mind here.
TEA WITH A BUNNY
As it turns out, you don’t need to be acquainted with the first to understand its storyline, because it’s exactly the same. A completely normal backpack-wearing chameleon encounters a white rabbit that appears to be on his way to the Mad Hatter’s tea party and is flung into a series of magical worlds. The only way you can really tell that this is a continuation from the first and not a remake is that the chameleons seem to be more experienced from their last adventure and no longer move like their every joint is riddled with arthritis.
Having come directly off the first game, I was actually surprised by how smoothly the chameleons control. Running and jumping feels responsive, and all the chameleon’s tongue related moves are quicker and easier to use. It finally feels like the controls are up to the game’s challenge, and as a result, the platforming feels much more solid and the game feels less rickety. The unique controls can finally be put to better use, and tongue vaulting, swinging, and flipping is a breeze and gives new life to the game. It’s really quite impressive, at least, in contrast to the last game.
Likewise, the issues with the camera have been solved by having it locked at specific vantages, often turning the game into a quasi-sidescroller. It’s similar to the one used in the previous game’s Desert Castle stage. To use a more recent example, it’s a lot like Super Mario 3D Land’s camera, where it’s always pointed in a way that allows you to tackle the various obstacles without having to worry about wrestling with it. It’s pulled off pretty well, and I can’t say it ever gave me any problems.
JUST A LICK OF TROUBLE
Coins replace the collectible crowns in the previous game, and this time around there’s a much better reward for collecting them all. For every level that all the coins are collected on, a costume is unlocked that the chameleon can wear. Each of the four chameleons has their own set of costumes, and even if they don’t have any effect on gameplay, it’s a pretty fun reward to try and get. Separating the rewards by level rather than giving them out for a perfect game like the previous title did makes earning them less frustrating and ensures that they can be used for more than just replay value.
Most of the bosses are far more ambitious as well. In particular, I enjoyed the battle with the giant robot, if only for the sense of scale. They have the unfortunate problem of being pattern-based damage sponges, but their visual personalities help them stand out. Some of the battles are more annoying than others, but at least they are a bit more memorable than the ones in the first game.
A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE
It’s hard not to get a sense of déjà vu from the four playable characters, the six abstract stages, and the minimalistic storyline. While the new moves – especially the ability to stick your tongue to any wall – do have a considerable impact on gameplay, the game feels more like a do-over than a true sequel. Some of the non-control related problems are still there, such as the short running time. If the first game didn’t exist, it would be a pretty creative and unique experience, but we’ve been here before so the impact is a bit lessened.
Even the game’s lighthearted, candy coated shell isn’t quite as sweet as it once was. The Chameleon design in the North American version has mutated in the intervening time between the first and second games, and rather than looking like a rounded blobby person, the characters’ heads actually look unsettlingly like an actual chameleon’s. It’s more detailed, yes, but it’s also almost disturbing looking. The funny thing is, the Japanese version has the chameleons looking as they did in the first game, so someone thought this would be more appealing to western audiences.
There are some neat enemy designs, such as the hamburgers (I guess I have a thing for food-themed enemy designs), but everything has a mean look to it, which is a departure from the googly eyed critters that made up the rogues gallery of the previous game. It’s a matter of preference, for sure, but I preferred the sugary cuteness of the previous title.
The levels also aren’t nearly as varied as the original game’s. Sure, they all have unique themes, but they all play basically the same. I couldn’t tell you what the difference between the Carnival and Toy stages are beyond their physical appearance, for example. Everything sort of blurred together for me, just a mess of pegs and sliding blocks. Even the colourful bosses, with a few exceptions, all play out in a pretty similar fashion, with all of them involving the slurping up of enemies to fire at opportune times.
While I once again wasn’t compelled to go back and grab all the collectibles that were on offer, I actually enjoyed Chameleon Twist 2, which is more than I can say for its predecessor. It’s a vast improvement off the first game to the point where it doesn’t have to rely on its unique personality to be tolerable. But even with all its improvements, it’s a pretty average game. There are many better platformers on the N64 to choose from, and from a quality standpoint, Chameleon Twist 2 falls pretty low on that list. Still, if you burn through those, Chameleon Twist 2 might be worth a look, if only for those burger monsters.
This review was conducted on an N64 using a cartridge copy of the game. It was paid for by the author. Portions of this review were previously posted on mobygames.com