Every company, once in a while, decide to try something different with a new IP and idea. With Capcom, they experimented with the visual novel route and they ended up with the fantastically madcap Ace Attorney series. Nintendo placed their faith in a Sim-like game, created the absorbing Animal Crossing series. SEGA took a chance with a mix between Pokémon and Marble Madness, creating the decent, if insane, Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg for the Gamecube (and later, PC).
The story of this little game is as follows. One day, a boy called Billy Hatcher is out with his friends, before mysterious creatures descend upon them – the Crows. After saving a chick, he and his friends are transported to Morning Land, where Billy is tasked with the task to eradicate the Crows (beings of darkness) from Morning Land by saving the Chicken Elders and to stop the Crows from hatching the Giant Egg, a source of great power (the Wind Fish, this is not).
To do so, Billy must use eggs to roll over, smash, crush and otherwise obliterate Crows. But he can only do so by wearing a special suit. Yes, a special suit that makes him look like a chicken, bestowed with the power of the Chicken gods. Not only that, but the suit allows him to crow like a rooster, hatching any egg that reaches maturity (which is done by the egg running over fruit floating in bubbles).
Look, it makes sense in the game, okay?
Anyway, the game uses eggs as your prime mode of transport and attack. Without them, you cannot go far in any level. The game is split up into Missions – with different missions requiring different skills. The first two missions is every core world are the same: Save a Chicken Elder by hatching them (in which the destruction of their golden egg means insta-fail) and then beat the world’s boss. Supplementary missions include saving your friends and defeating a set number of Crows without dying, all of which add a lot of variety to the game.
Speaking of, there’s another feature of the game that is clever. If you hatch certain eggs with special markings, you can get a bunch of extras. They are usually either pet animals that can aid you in battle or items to improve certain abilities. This is the Pokémon side of things – there are a multitude of critters that you can find, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Certain animals are needed for certain tasks, so you need to make sure you have the right one for the job.
The Marble Madness side of things is its strength and its weakness. It’s great fun to run around the levels, using eggs to blast your way through hoards of enemies without a care in the world. Similarly, the control scheme lets it down, as precise movement is needed in certain levels, which is not possible with these eggs. In particular, the ramps that the game uses to transport eggs through levels (without Billy). In many a level, the egg has fallen through the gaps in the ramp as it wasn’t on just right – a major frustration in later worlds (even more so with the golden eggs).
The music in this game is very fitting. The dark and foreboding music for the Crow-possessed worlds adds to the atmosphere, where the tunes when the world is freed are upbeat and chirpy (no pun intended). It’s a great soundtrack to the game and it’s full of infectious little gems that’ll stay in your head for a long time. In particular, the theme song for this game. It. Will. Never. Leave. Your. Head. Well, until you listen to Duck Tails for the thousandth time. Then that’ll never leave. But I digress – the music is great and well worth a listen to.
Visually, the game is lovely to look at. Sure it doesn’t push the Gamecube’s power, but it’s nice and flowing. The characters and monsters have a lot of imagination and uniqueness, making them fit very well in the game. The different worlds all have their own little touches too, but is fairly standard fare. The intro and ending scenes are rendered nicely, though it does have shades of Sonic Heroes about it. Seeing as they were developed at near enough the same time, it’s not very surprising. Still, I like it, even if some of the models do look a bit off in the movies.
Once again, SEGA decided to push the boat out by trying the GC-GBA connectivity cable. Seriously – I think they used it more than Nintendo did. In this game, you can find 5 special eggs, each of which allow you to play a special game on your GBA. 3 of them are little mini-Billy Hatcher games of varying difficulty, which is nice if basic. One is a mini version of Chu-Chu Rocket, which I must admit; I did waste a lot of time on. The final one was a great treat for all SEGA fans – a NiGHTS mini-game. It’s a lovely touch to the game and certainly adds to the lifespan.
Speaking of, this game does boast a lot to do. Along with the 5 core missions available, there are 3 hidden missions to find, A-Ranks to obtain, a full Egg Lexicon to unlock and even secret eggs. You see, by collecting coins in levels, you can slowly reveal special Sonic Team eggs in levels. These offer unique character cameos when you hatch them – ranging from NiGHTS to Sonic. These are lovely little cameos and are a nice touch to the overall game. However, unless you want to 100% the game, there’s not much to do once you beat the story. However, the Multiplayer mode that it has is fun, and can offer a lovely little bit of extra playability if you want it.
In conclusion, this is an underrated little game. Sure, it’s mad and potentially insane in the story department, but it’s entertaining and fun to play. The music is infectiously cheery and there’s a decent length story mode behind it. It’s not without its faults, with its control scheme and variable difficulty being the main problems. But if you do decide to get this, you’ll not be disappointed.
|GRAPHICS||Not the best the Gamecube could offer, but it’s robust and colourful, which is what you need for this game.|
|MUSIC||Lots of great tracks that’ll stay with you long after you switch it off. And that theme song – so cheery it’ll never leave your brain.|
|CONTROLS||When it’s good, it’s very good. When it’s bad, it’s frustrating. This’ll cause a lot of unnecessary deaths in the game and a prime source of rage. But once under control, it gets a lot better|
|REPLAY VALUE||Plenty of missions and a decent sized story mode available, but no real incentive to go for 100%, unless you want to Hatch ‘Em All!*|
|OVERALL||A fun and unique game, even if it’s slightly frustrating. There’s enough here to keep you entertained and to understand why Billy Hatcher is significant enough to still make cameos in the All-Stars series.|
*I’m so sorry for the bad pun**
**…Actually, no I’m not