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GC

North America

Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg

by Michael Cole - October 12, 2003, 8:04 pm PDT

8

TYP reviews the Japanese game where rooster suits are fashionable and gigantic smiles are all the rage!

After the N64’s debut, many developers saw Super Mario 64 as the 3D platformer and, consequently, borrowed heavily from Nintendo’s instant classic. Sonic Team, however, broke out of the mold and continued the linear tradition in Sonic Adventure for the Dreamcast. Now, five years later, Sonic Team has traveled down the road it chose not to take and created Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg. The result is a diamond in the rough that will entertain gamers willing to overlook its unflattering presentation.

Billy Hatcher’s level design borrows heavily from the Super Mario 64 formula. The single player story mode is divided into seven worlds, each containing eight missions. At the end of each mission is one of the game’s sixty courage emblems, Morning Land’s magical, shining medallions resembling a rooster’s crown. Each mission features altered paths and item placement to keep the shared environments fresh. The setup works well for linear missions, each of which tends to showcase different sections of the world, but gameplay starts to crack in the scavenger hunt missions. Players will dread each world’s “Save 8 Chickens” and “Destroy 100 Crows” missions, both of which rehash old territory in a feast of monotony.

Despite Billy Hatcher’s redundant missions, the gameplay itself is excellent. Eggs are Billy’s lifeline in this game—fortunately; they are fun to play with. Well-mapped controls make rolling around feel natural and approachable. The combat system is intuitive and fun, rewarding players for skillfully-placed combo attacks without disallowing more direct approaches. Since eggs are Billy’s means of transportation, main weapon, and source of power-ups all at once, players must be careful with their fragile friends. Other dilemmas, such as whether or not to abandon a grown (more powerful) but cracked egg for a fresh one, also give more depth to the game.

The game’s essence shines through beautifully in multiplayer. Rampant theft combined with severe vulnerability when egg-less makes the battle mode brilliantly competitive. Few things are more enjoyable than stealing your friend’s egg and beating him with it! Billy Hatcher’s unsophisticated battle mode probably will not entertain for hours on end, but it makes an excellent addition to the GameCube’s constantly growing library of party games.

While BHGE’s gameplay entertains, its audio most certainly does not. The songs are usually appropriate but annoyingly repetitive, and Billy Hatcher & friends’ sung rendition of the main theme is simply embarrassing. A few tunes stand out, however; Yukari Fresh’s vocal rendition of the same theme, “Chant this Charm”, is a high point. The game’s disappointing audio extends past its music. To make up for the gracious lack of horribly acted dialogue (as heard in Sonic Adventure DX), Sonic Team made sure Billy and his friends’ Japanese in-game exclamations are as frequent and irritating as possible. High pitched yelps of joy will torture all nearby as the player jumps, dashes, and bounces his way through each mission.

Clearly running on a tweaked version of the Sonic Adventure DX engine, Billy Hatcher inherits some of Sonic DX’s weaknesses. Most prominent is the inconsistent framerate, which jumps from a smooth 60 frames per second to a jerky 15 or so with the appearance of some larger baddies. Sonic Team’s other chronic problems are more subdued: the camera rarely hides behind walls, collision errors are infrequent, and controls are slippery but manageable.

Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg isn’t the greatest game in its genre, but it is Sonic Team’s best 3D work in years. Those mature enough to overlook the blatantly “kiddie” image will be treated to smooth gameplay worth at least a rental. Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg had the potential for excellence. I eagerly await a sequel with more imaginative missions and less annoying audio.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
6 5 8 9 9 8
Graphics
6

Sonic Team gets style points for the crows’ evil smiles, but that’s about it. Billy Hatcher features simple textures and average models only further emphasized by the game’s blurry progressive scan display. Its bi-polar framerate is impossible to miss. Billy Hatcher also contains overly-cutesy FMV in the opening and closing sequences that, with its audio accompaniment, will chase the weak away screaming.

Sound
5

Billy Hatcher’s audio will dissuade many from playing the game seriously. The character voices create an overwhelmingly cutesy aura that severely damages the game’s appeal, while the whimsical music, though fitting, is rarely inspired. Even Dolby Pro Logic II is used poorly, rarely adding anything more than confusion.

Control
8

BHGE borrows Sonic Adventure’s sensitive controls, but this game’s slower pace keeps the slipperiness from causing too much harm. Billy Hatcher’s button mapping works wonderfully, allowing for comfortable camera and character control at the same time. There are minor control oddities: whoever decided Billy should drop his egg after an egg bounce hi-jump deserves a good slap.

Gameplay
9

Sure, it may be a Super Mario 64 clone, but BHGE is addictively entertaining. Story mode’s excellent combat and ranking system cater to the ambitious, while its later platforming challenges will keep players on their toes. Billy Hatcher’s battle mode makes a great side dish for gaming parties. If only the missions had more variety…

Lastability
9

With five chicken coins to collect and an S-rank to earn in each mission, the story mode alone will keep players busy. Players will keep Billy Hatcher for its fantastic battle mode, and the GBA mini-games (especially the color-blind-friendly Puyo Pop) provide further value to the already impressive $40 game.

Final
8

Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg makes no attempt to hide its Super Mario Sunshine roots. Yuji Naka himself probably mutters “Shine Get” when playing this creation. However, the egg-celent single player combat and platforming, frenetic multiplayer action, and quality GBA demos make Sonic Team’s latest well worth the MSRP. This game is highly recommended to all Sonic Team enthusiasts.

Summary

Pros
  • Intuitive and fun gameplay
  • Linear missions
  • Unlockable GBA demos
  • Well-distributed challenge
Cons
  • Boring scavenger hunt missions
  • Repetitive and annoyingly cutesy sound
  • Slippery controls
  • Unimpressive graphics
Review Page 2: Conclusion

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Genre Action
Developer Sonic Team
Players1 - 4

Worldwide Releases

na: Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg
Release Sep 23, 2003
PublisherSega
RatingEveryone
jpn: Giant Egg: Billy Hatcher no Daibouken
Release Oct 09, 2003
PublisherSega
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