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Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg Review for GameCube
Posted on Sunday, March 21, 2004 @ 04:11:47 pm E.S.T

Sega is known by many for creating the classic Sonic the Hedgehog series. Many gamers, including myself, consider the series to be one of the greatest in the platformer genre. In 2003, Sega announced that Sonic Team, the team behind the Sonic and the Phantasy Star series, was hard at work on a new platformer for the GameCube dubbed Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg. Some gamers were filled with glee, while others found the gameís concept of rolling eggs to be rather childish. Could Sonic Teamís project turn out sunny side up, or would it be a scrambled mess? Well, Billy Hatcher serves up both here and there.

In Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg, you assume the role of a little boy named Billy. His home of Morning Land has been taken over by a dark and unknown force, which has sent creatures to infest the world. Upon investigating around one night, he comes across and dons a rooster suit. He quickly learns that the suit has magical powers. Upon freeing a sage of the land, who is coincidentally a rooster, he learns that the suit is legendary, powerful, and meant for a hero. He also learns of a Giant Egg, an egg that holds great power, which has been seized by the dark forces. Billy decides that since he has found this ďhero suit,Ē he must use it to track down the egg, and the foe who possess it so he can bring light to Morning Land again. The story line is weak, uninteresting, and simple. It's your typical plot in which a boy attempts to save the world from evil. Whatís worse is that there are no twists to the story at all so the story stays uninteresting throughout the entire game.

The main gameplay element that makes the game truly innovative is the role of eggs. Billy has the ability to roll, grow, and hatch an arsenal of eggs. Eggs are scattered throughout the gameís many diverse lands and are his only source of attack. However, when Billy first finds an egg, it is small and weak. As he moves farther through a level, rolling his egg along with him, heíll find fruit lying around, in random locations. After rolling over fruit, it is absorbed into the egg, making it larger. Once enough fruit is collected, the egg will reach its maximum size and become capable of being hatched. Just about every egg carries a specific ability. Some eggs may contain a shield for Billy, while others hold small animals that have a certain ability that is handy for battle, or vital in solving puzzles.

Aside from that, Billy has a slew of other abilities that can be carried out with the help of eggs. In fact, they are his only source of attack in battle. While he can flatten some enemies, merely by rolling over them with his egg, he also has a few other combat attacks. For a long distance attack, Billy can lock onto an enemy and use his egg as a boomerang. After giving the egg a shove, it will hit the enemy, as long as itís not too far away, and then the egg will roll right back to him. He can also leap up in the air with his egg and throw it down, smashing enemies below. He even has a few other midair attacks at his disposal. However, the combat raises a problem. He simply does not have enough combat moves to keep combat fresh. The egg is his only means of attack so you would hope heíd have a few more abilities, but he doesnít. While the combat is fun, after a bit it becomes tiresome and repetitive, and it feels like drudgery rather than fun at times. While abilities hatched from eggs do make the battles a bit more interesting, itís still not enough to keep them fresh and fun at all times.

However, eggs serve purposes outside of battle. Throughout levels youíll find Super Monkey Ball style ramps. The only way to use these is to hop on the egg and roll down, steering around holes. This is a fun little addition, not to mention a treat for fans of the Super Monkey Ball series. But of course, underneath all of this, the game is a platformer, and eggs are necessary for jumping from platform to platform. Billy alone cannot jump too high or far, but with an egg he is able to bounce up higher and jump farther. Many platforms have gaps far too big for Billy to hop over successfully, so having an egg with you at all times is important. Like in the Sonic games, the platforming is fun, but there is a small flaw in the camera system. It can sometimes affect your perception. While a platform looks like itís only a small jump away, it may actually be a leap. This problem doesnít occur too much, but when it does it can be frustrating.

The game features many areas, each containing its own set of diverse mission objectives. For example, one mission may be to locate and hatch a rooster elder of Morning Land, while another may be to defeat the boss of a level. The diversity helps to keep the gameplay from becoming tedious. Some of the most enjoyable missions are the boss fights. Each boss represents the type of level that it resides in. For example, in one level, a frozen, winter wonderland, the boss is a seal that chucks ice balls at Billy. Each boss is completely different from the other, so it requires players to figure out a strategy to defeat it, which is a great deal of fun.

The game also features a competitive multiplayer mode that up to four players can participate in simultaneously. There are three modes of play: Hatch, Survival, and Time. In Hatch, the players grow and hatch as many eggs as possible until they reach a certain amount, which can be manually set. In Time, players try to hatch as many eggs as possible in a certain time limit. In Survival, players must attack and defeat each other until they reach a certain number of points. Survival is a frantic mode, which is quite addictive. However, the other two modes arenít all that fun and really arenít worth the time it takes to play them. In short, Billy Hatcherís multiplayer is a nice little treat, but it isnít anything "eggs-trodinary".

The gameís graphics are very sprightly. All of the environments are blooming with interesting design and bright colors that are easy on the eyes. While some games rely on darkness to control the mood of the game, Billy Hatcher uses brightness to give the game a warm and friendly feel. Everything is wonderful to look at, but when you come right down to it, the graphics are average. Nothing in the game is very detailed, and nothing will really amaze you. However, when you actually play the game, you wonít notice or mind this. Youíll become so enthralled in the liveliness of the world and creatures that inhabit it that you wonít notice any of this. Not only that, but to compliment the lively graphics, the frame rate runs very smoothly at 60 frames per second with very few dips. So while the graphics donít really push the GameCubeís hardware, itís not anything to complain about.

One thing that you will complain about however, is the audio. The gameís music tries to take the same route of the graphics by keeping lively and friendly. Instead, most tracks are torturous. The music is obviously aimed for a younger audience because it sounds like something youíd hear in an educational cartoon for toddlers. At first you may enjoy the tunes, even start humming them after a bit, but then youíll be scrambling for the remote to hit the mute button. There are a few tracks that are enjoyable for a while, but sadly they too become repetitive. The music isnít the only thing that's annoying; Billyís voice is too. He sounds like a two-year-old child who repeats the same phrases over and over. Whenever Billy hatches an egg, heíll yell out ďCuck a doodle dooĒ in a completely slurred, fast, and mind numbing way. Sadly, youíll be hatching eggs often to solve puzzles or to complete objectives, so youíll have to hear this annoying phrase over and over again, unless of course you find that remote control again. Luckily, the sound effects are easier on the ear because they are not as annoying as the music and voicing. Simply put, Billy Hatcher's audio is more tolorable if you mute your television.

The game has a lot going for it in the replay department. Each level has a myriad of missions to complete. Plus, there are even some unlockable missions that can be obtained through completing other missions, so completing every single mission should take you a while. Also, every egg you hatch is logged into a data book that can be accessed in the level select screen. In this book, a list of numbers accompanied by question marks appears. Once you hatch an egg, itís logged into the book under the corresponding number. Tracking down every single egg takes a lot of time, but itíll give you a great feeling of accomplishment. Some of the eggs contain games, like Puyo Pop. If you have a Game Boy Advance as well as a GameCube/Game Boy Advance Link Cable youíll be able to download the games to your GBA and play them. Sega even included a great treat for Sonic fans. Throughout each level youíll find coins hidden about. If you collect a certain amount of these a special egg will become available to you. This egg contains Segaís signature mascot, Sonic! If collecting extras and completing missions isnít enough for you, there is also the forementioned multiplayer mode, which may keep some gamers interested for a while. However, if collecting really isnít your thing, then there isnít too much to come back for.

Overall, Billy Hatcher may not be the heir to the Sonic series but it's still a fun game. The game does have some great strong points, like it's friendly graphics, loads or replay value, wonderfully crafted worlds, and diversity of missions. [However, it has its flaws like the horrible audio and weak storyline. If your looking for a new, revolutionary title, then you will be disappointed. If you are looking for a fun little niche title then you may want to give Billy Hatcher a look. It's a solid rental.

Review By: MarioPrime - 1138 Reads

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