Chambara is one of those games that has such a wacky premise it almost begs you to try it out just for curiosity's sake.
You and up to three friends play as samurai birds who must hunt one another down using a combination of stealth, shurikens and parkour. The levels mostly feature just two colours, meaning your monochrome birds can render themselves invisible as long as they stay in an area that matches their colour. Whack your foe once with your melee weapon and you'll send their avian soul soaring into the air, leaving nothing but a scattering of feathers on the ground. Do it five times and you win the round. Simples.
Moving around in Chambara is easy and fluid. Though your birds can't fly, you can still wall jump, boost through the air, and fling your shuriken to momentarily stun adversaries. You'll also want to pay close attention to your friends' sections of the screen. This will give you clues to their positions as well as let you know if you're visible to them. Catching a glimpse of yourself through their eyes the moment they are about to strike can give you an extra split second to make a successful evasive manoeuvre, hopefully allowing you to dodge out of the way and then strike with a counter-attack.
If you don't want your opponents sussing out your location, you can hold down L2 to close your eyes. This renders your section of the screen blank, blinding you, but stopping others from determining your whereabouts. Personally, I didn't find this tactic too helpful as it hampers you as well. The most solid strategy is to stay hidden, watch your friends' screens for clues, wait for them to slip up, then move in for a coup-de-grace.
As well as being a key element of its gameplay, Chambara's bichrome visuals are also worthy of admiration on an aesthetic level. Their simple yet stylish look can be strikingly beautiful at times; akin to something you'd see hanging in a contemporary gallery. In addition, each of the game's nine maps comes with a range of different colour schemes that give areas a fresh look despite being physically the same. All of the maps are fairly small which is actually good as it keeps things from getting too dull and uneventful. The larger ones generally offer more room to play stealthily and stalk your prey, whereas the smaller ones usually make for shorter, more chaotic experiences.
Chambara's problems aren't so much to do with what's in the game, but what isn't. There's no online play and no single player mode, so unless you've got friends to play with and a spare controller or three, don't even bother with it. It's understandable that this content is excluded as Chambara is designed to be played on a couch with friends, but at the very least it could have done with some extra modes. As it is, there's only a standard deathmatch that can be played over the course of one to ten rounds, or in a one-off "instant" match which is essentially the same thing. Other than the tutorial (the only part of the game that can be played solo), that's it.
Chambara easily succeeds in its goal to be a fun couch multiplayer game. Just be aware that its lack of game types and alternate modes means you'll probably only ever play it in short bursts rather than spend any considerable amount of time with it.
- + Fun and frantic local multiplayer gameplay for up to four players
- + A clever and striking visual style
- + Easy and fluid controls
- - Only one game type means you'll likely tire of it pretty quickly
- - No single player or online modes