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Jefklaks Codex

Alfred Chicken: a Tricky Nineties Euro Platformer


Without my wife picking up the Alfred Chicken Game Boy cart—because the sticker on it contained a funny chicken apparently being abducted by aliens—I wouldn’t be typing this. It turns out that Alfred Chicken has quite a history in Europe and was very popular on, among other platforms, the Amiga and the (S)NES. Yet the chicken hatched first on the Game Boy in 1993, in two different forms, according to Wikipedia:

Two revisions exist; the monochrome original, and a Super Game Boy version with a level select feature; the latter was developed by Hookstone and released by Sunsoft in Japan.

A colorful remake called Alfred’s Adventure was eventually released for the Game Boy Color that also contains a password system and the option to adjust the amount of lives/continues. The original one we own doesn’t. Don’t get this one—get one of the other two! Why? Because Alfred Chicken is a “git gud” kind of game: the slightest spike or enemy you touch equals an exploding chicken, and after your lives are depleted, there’s no continue system: it’s back to square one.

If you see feathers flying around, the wind-up mouse ate the chicken.
If you see feathers flying around, the wind-up mouse ate the chicken.

Alfred Chicken is weird. For some reason, Alfred’s enemies are snails and wind-up mice. And for some weirder reason, Alfred has to pop five balloons in each stage in order to fly off to the next one—literally. The stages themselves are weird. You start in a big Swiss cheese level, continue to A-B-C blocks and scary clocks staring at you, only to find moving saws in-between wooden platforms in the next level. There are both easter eggs (switching on a radio for no reason?) and hidden secrets (collect a watering can for an angry sunflower?). I have no idea what the central theme here is, but it’s all weird in a good way: at least the design is original instead of yet another Mario clone!

This is clearly Twilight at their best. Compared to Yogi Bear’s Gold Rush, another Twilight Game Boy platformer, this is less conventional, has more intricate level design and sprite work, and is more compelling to play (and die and try again). Alfred’s posture is funny to look at and changes if you leave it alone for a few seconds. His beak is a powerful tool to peck and get rid of most enemies or pogo-jump off—in one of the later levels, this is even a requirement. It reminded me of a difficult platforming section in Hollow Knight. Perhaps Team Cherry once chickened their way through Cheese land?

In-between stages, Alfred gets to collect presents and meet an angry sunflower.
In-between stages, Alfred gets to collect presents and meet an angry sunflower.

There’s enough meat to the bone here to keep you occupied for several hours, not taken into account the lack of a save or password feature. Secrets are fun to discover, and after a while, you’ll want to explore each stage thoroughly enough to please the angry sunflower at the end of the level. “THIS WILL HELP YOU” it says, and then throws in a bunch of goodies that will hopefully lead to a 1-up. Thanks buddy! If you collect all presents in the bonus levels the end of each stage, another sorely needed 1-up is waiting for you.

It’s worth mentioning that this game isn’t just weird, but its publishers are too: it was marketed by leveraging local politics by the product manager who ran as the Alfred Chicken Party candidate in Dorset in 1993. Although he finished second last (18 votes, great!), it partially worked and promoted this chickeny but hardcore-precise platformer on various systems. See what European developers have to do to promote their games? Unfortunately for Alfred, it never became more than a one-time adventure. Its latest reincarnation was a misshapen 2.5D Playstation remix in 2002 by Möbius Entertainment—the same company that would get to do the GBC color overhaul. Möbius, now Rockstar Leeds, would later focus on excellent handheld side stories of Grand Theft Auto on PSP and DS.

As is the case with Yogi Bear, there are two things keeping Alfred Chicken from being really great. The first is the painful lack of a password system or save feature. There are 11 stages and a thousand different ways to die in each of them. Without the save state feature of the Analogue Pocket, I wouldn’t have made it past stage 5. As said before: get the Japanese GB version or the GBC version.

The bigger problem is the music. At first you’d classify it as weird as the game itself in a jolly good way. But the game requires timing, patience, and precise movement—that is made even harder with the gradually maddening soundtrack set on repeat. There are only two tracks that alternate between each stage, but they’re very similar, and remind me of awful carnival music. It’s not as bad as in Yogi Bear’s Gold Rush, but getting close. Judge for yourself in the following GBC clip (compared to the original GB version I’m reviewing here, the music hasn’t changed):

YouTube video gl0qdoItDC4

Still, Alfred Chicken is a polished Game Boy game that’s worth looking into if you’re not afraid of a decent platforming challenge and a bit of Euro weirdness. Remember to get the GBC version—the loose cart is very affordable at around €8, somehow cheaper than the original GB one, which we paid €12 for.

Verdict: 3/5 I liked it.


Me!

I'm Jefklak, a high-level Retro Gamer, and I love the sight of experience points on old and forgotten hardware. I sometimes convince others to join in on the nostalgic grind. Read more about me here.

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