Conan Chop Chop Review: An Adventure of Highs and Lows
After the surprise success of Conan Exiles, the Conan the Barbarian series has returned to the realm of video games with Conan Chop Chop. This entry, developed by Mighty Kingdom, is a 2D roguelike with a comedic tone, set up from the beginning by an introductory cutscene with a few charming, if not obvious, jokes.
That lighthearted throughline continues with the art style. It's reminiscent of the same style used by the webcomic Cyanide and Happiness, where each character has stick figure arms and legs but blocky torsos and heads. Playing Conan Chop Chop looks like you’re hacking and slashing your way through a Conan-themed version of the comic strip.
Despite being derivative everything looks nice and is readable. Enemies are always visible, and it’s clear when they’re about to attack. Similar to the visuals, the music is enjoyable as well, fading into the background and swelling when needed to give the sense of adventure through exploration and combat.
Beyond that, Conan Chop Chop is an adventure of highs and lows that feels like a game running in place. Its characters serve it well and combat is fun when it works, but other parts still need some work.
Conan Chop Chop Review: An Adventure of Highs and Lows
The story begins with Thoth-Amon failing to fully revive Xaltotun. Thoth’s ritual only restores half of Xaltotun, so he concocts a plan to start a competition of strength that will lure Conan and friends to their lair. Once the heroes arrive, Thoth-Amon plans to use one of their bodies to completely revive Xaltotun.
To reach Thoth-Amon's lair, you, and potentially up to three co-op partners, travel through the world of Hyboria exploring forests, deserts, tundras, and a volcano. Each area is made up of challenge rooms strung together, where entering one room locks you into that room until all enemies are defeated.
Once the enemies are gone, there are (most likely) multiple routes to choose from. Only one route leads to the area’s dungeon and the boss. Mighty Kingdom graciously marks the dungeon route by highlighting it a different color, so if you want to head straight to the boss, you can.
Hyboria itself is randomly generated. Starting a new run remixes everything from the route to the dungeon, the challenge rooms along the way, and all the loot found in those rooms, though it never truly changes how you play. Each of the enemy rooms never asks you to play differently or looks all that different from other rooms. There are different enemies with mildly different attack patterns, but they can all be finished the same way; whether an enemy attacks once or in a two-hit combo doesn't really matter. So a greater variety in enemy types would have lessened that feeling of familiarity.
The lack of enemy variety is especially disappointing since combat is interesting. Conan Chop Chop plays like a twin-stick brawler where melee attacks are bound on the right analog stick. Holding that stick in any direction has your character attack repeatedly in that direction. The combat is very aggressive with a focus on effective movement. Using your three tools — a shield, a roll, and an i-frame ultimate ability — to dodge enemy attacks while also pumping out constant damage is very satisfying.
The four playable characters all have unique strengths that rely on their various abilities. Conan and Valeria both favor swords, but Valeria is more focused on moving around the battlefield with a large number of dashes while Conan focuses more on getting close to enemies. Pallantides is the slowest character, who depends more on parrying. Bêlit makes the most use of bows and is focused on constant movement to keep distance.
Each character manages to feel unique despite having the same tools at their disposal. Unfortunately, after multiple runs of the same structure and with the same character abilities, things still feel repetitive.
This feeling of repetition is alleviated somewhat by Conan Chop Chop's loot and progression systems. You can level up your characters with experience points gained in each run. After a run ends, your level increases and earns you points to be spent on intrinsic buffs or new skills.
These change how each character interacts with the battlefield and enemies. Bêlit gains increased movement speed after doing damage with her bow, for example. These buffs are all permanent across every run once unlocked, giving a sense of progress between runs.
The loot found in chests or purchased in town can be one of four categories: Charms, Weapons, Armor, or Shields. These all have different stats and attributes that change how you might approach combat. A specific shield will spawn fire tornados by parrying or a certain charm can let you spawn allies by using your bow. These have the chance to create micro-adjustments that ask you to try parrying or using the bow more, but the amount these attributes change the flow of combat is pretty low. Generally, success comes from using all the tools at your disposal, not just one.
Conan Chop Chop already has playerbase problems. It heavily emphasizes its co-op nature from the character selection screen, from always showing slots for other players to a few charms only being viable in a party. Unfortunately, multiplayer isn't really an option. People aren’t using online matchmaking.
Even in what should be peak hours, there were too many times I went online trying to find another player and just found nothing. When I did find someone to actually test the online multiplayer, it worked well. Performance was solid. Gold picked up by one player earns gold for the whole party. Enemy health is scaled to the number of players. Players can still start Chop Chop solo; however, playing it that way feels like a four-course meal missing a course.
Conan Chop Chop Review — The Bottom Line
- Each character feels unique.
- Combat is satisfying when everything clicks.
- Art style and writing work well together to create a lighthearted tone.
- Online matchmaking playerbase is low.
- Loot doesn’t affect gameplay enough
- Fighting the same enemies becomes repetitive.
Conan Chop Chop is a conflicting game to play. For every clever or charming idea, there’s another idea that doesn't pan out or isn't implemented ideally, making the whole experience uneven. That, combined with multiplayer mostly being an option only if you know people already playing, makes Conan Chop Chop more disappointing than fun.
[Note: Mighty Kingdom provided the copy of Conan Chop Chop used for this review.]