There are certain games I don't play around my friends. These games, both digital and physical, simply cause too much turmoil and strife within a group of friends. At the top of this list is any Mario Party game or the card game Phase 10. In both games, I've seen people I consider friends devolve into fits of rage. It's just not a good situation.
I think Ultimate Chicken Horse may also end up on that list. I feel fine playing it against complete strangers, but I think my friends and I might come to blows.
Ultimate Chicken Horse is a platformer where you compete against three other players to reach a goal at the end of each stage. There's only two buttons: jump and dance. Each player is a very cute animal, either a chicken, a horse, a sheep, or a raccoon.
Matches are quick and the loop is very simple. At the beginning of the match, a randomized Party Box is created. This box is full of level pieces, including platforms, stairs, doors, teleporters, and a ton of traps. Players can pick one piece out of the box and place it somewhere on the level before the round starts. Then everybody does their best to reach the finish line. First person to three finishes wins.
The random and competitive nature of Ultimate Chicken Horse is key here. You want to be the one to reach the finish line, but you also want to do your best to stop everyone else from getting there. Sure you can be helpful, but where's the fun in that?
So each round, you'll place your chosen piece in a place that will stymie others while theoretically giving you a boost. The thing is, everyone's doing that. Each successive round is more complex, because bits placed on the level in previous rounds remain. That means later rounds are painfully difficult, with arrows, buzzsaws, barbed wire, and other obstacles doing their best to hold you back.
Heaven forbid if one player decides that they don't care about winning. Then every item placement is placed for maximum pain; they'll put traps in the path of simple jumps or add new obstacles onto perfectly good platforms.
Ultimate Chicken Horse is the most fun title I played today. It's a great party game, to the point that Clever Endeavour Games is thinking about dropping the planned single-player mode for the time being. If I were you though, I would not play with loved ones. One item placement may be a bridge too far, and I'm sure the developer doesn't want to be responsible for ruined relationships.
Ultimate Chicken Horse has already been greenlit for release on Steam (PC, Mac, and Linux). The developer expects that the game will come sometime in 2016. If you're interested, you can find a small multiplayer demo of the game on the developer's official site.