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Chariot's father-daughter story takes a back seat to its platforming

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

Chariot is a physics-based platformer from Quebec, Canada-based Frima Studio, and even in a genre as crowded as that one, the company is banking on the game's mechanics to set it apart from the pack.

We checked out Chariot in the ID@Xbox part of Microsoft's E3 2014 booth, and played the game with its executive producer, Martin Brouard. Chariot is a co-op title featuring a princess and her fiancé who are transporting the corpse of her father, the king, to its final resting place. The corpse sits in an eponymous chariot, and the two lovers can move it along with ropes attached to its axles.

That may sound like a depressing setup for a video game, but this co-op title is less Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons and more Trine 2. According to Brouard, Frima put the mechanics of the game first, focusing on the idea of a platformer in which the characters were forced to drag along a relatively heavy object that also came in handy in spots. Sure, said Brouard, you could project some deeper philosophical meaning onto that, but that's not Frima's focus.

In fact, Frima is aiming for a more humorous take in Chariot. The king's ghost accompanies the princess and her betrothed, both of whom wear cheery smiles throughout, and complains that he wants to be buried with enough treasure to last an eternity. That's the story-based encouragement for attempting to collect the gems located in the game world, which, by the way, can only be grabbed by the chariot itself, not the characters.

The princess and her fiancé attempt to make their way through 25 levels across five different worlds, each of which offers a unique environment. Brouard showed us a cave-like setting, as well as a volcanic one in which we had the difficult task of avoiding the lava that lay everywhere. Each of the characters does have one special power of the player's choosing, such as the ability to attract or repel the chariot.

Frima isn't focusing on puzzles per se, although Chariot does contain some challenging areas that will require players to work together to figure out. Green boundaries are life lines in the sense that the princess and her companion can't pass through them while the chariot can; blue ones are death lines, and only the chariot can cross them. In addition to that, the characters can choke up on the rope or let it out, and they can also ride on the four-wheeled vehicle. Working with Brouard, we made our way through most of a single stage, and found there was a relaxing challenge to Chariot that wasn't too frustrating.

Chariot is in development on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Wii U and Windows PC, and is set for release this fall.

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