Dale and Peakot
Most farmers, upon discovering their hen house has been raided by the wiliest of coyotes, would simply sigh, wipe the sweat from beneath their faded John Deere cap, and truck back up the long and dusty road to their homestead, to retire to the porch with a simple glass of water and reflect on the fragility of life. Most farmers, however, don't discover a magic feather in the wreckage that grants their remaining hen with extraordinary powers, and then decide to strike out to rescue the rest. That's because most farmers aren't Dale of Juicy Beasts's Dale and Peakot, who, together with his hen, Peakot, are going to save the flock and save the day.
You'll control Dale with the [WASD] keys, and fire his shotgun with [space]. You control Peakot by clicking once on a spot you want her to fly to. Be careful, since she only flies in straight lines; her tiny bird brain won't allow her to use advanced flying techniques like, you know, not flying into obstacles instead of going around them. If you double click, Peakot will unleash a burst of magical energy that can stun enemies and manipulate switches. All chickens can actually do this. They just prefer not to. If you need to take a breather, pause the game by tapping [P].
Gather eggs as you progress through levels for points, working with Peakot to stun enemies to make them vulnerable to Dale's shotgun. Along the way, keep your eyes peeled for special chests that can only be unlocked if you collect enough feathers. The extra trouble is worth it; within, you'll find extra ammunition for Dale's shotgun, more health, and even equipment for Peakot, proving that everything is better with a chicken in a helmet. I have been saying this for years.
Analysis: It's nice to see a game that's "just" every once in a while. You know, "just" a shooter, or "just" a platformer, where the developers have focused on making something fun and (mostly) traditional instead of gorging it on gimmicks in an attempt to make it stand out. Dale and Peakot is bouncy, fun, and fairly simple. Sure you've got a magic chicken, but is that any stranger than an Italian plumber who eats mushrooms that sprout from blocks? The gameplay is, for the most part, pretty standard; jump on platforms, flip switches, get points, etc., etc., etc. If you've touched a console before, you probably know the drill.
Other games have experimented with the idea of controlling two characters at once, and while Dale and Peakot is less complex, it still isn't without its problems. The game informs you that if you want to prevent Peakot from coming back to Dale, say, because you're trying to have her navigate a series of doors that open and close on their own, you need to keep her moving. This often results in having to make her zip aimlessly around while you wait for a timed obstacle to move, or she'll pop back beside Dale after a second or two. Why can't we just have a key to tap that recalls Peakot back to Dale's side? And watching Peakot rebound off a wall is cute. Watching it happen when you're trying to do something in a hurry with enemies taking chunks out of you is frustrating. And why should I still lose health simply for brushing up against an enemy even when it's stunned and unable to attack?
It's a lot easier to forgive all of this simply because it all looks so good. The visuals are sharp and vibrant, everything wonderfully detailed in a Saturday morning cartoon-ish manner that really heaps on the charm. I love seeing such clean lines in a design, and the animation is cute as a button. Even if the control is a little clunky, Dale and Peakot looks and sounds very professional. If flattening a chicken's face against a wall over and over because it's so darn cute can be considered professional. Make no mistake, there's definite talent at work here, and I'd love to see even more from them in the future.
If you're a completionist, you can spend a lot of time going back through levels, tracking down any points or secrets you might have missed. Otherwise, Dale and Peakot is a fun afternoon's play for just about anybody. While the controls may take some getting used to, and the ability to bind actions to your preferred keys would not have gone unappreciated, the game is still a bouncy, cheerful romp. Only a bird-brain would miss giving this one a shot, so don't be chicken.
... or the feathers will fly!
... I'm so, so sorry for that.