Eets: Chowdown lays its influences right out on the table: it’s an action-puzzle game in which the blobby white title character is the living embodiment of metabolism: he never sits still, constantly moves forward, and tends to bite into anything that fits into his cavernous little mouth. Not unlike a certain round, yellow maze-muncher...
However, Eets isn’t forever trapped in simple, neon-hued mazes: he stumbles around traditional platform fantasy lands filled with levitating land masses and lethal obstacles. Not that Eets really cares: this plucky little munchaholic is happy to vault right off the edge of a precipice or march directly into the clutches of a deadly cyborg. Thus, it falls to you to guide little Eets safely through to each level's goal – a play mechanic which hearkens immediately back to classics like the Lemmings games or (to a lesser extent) Sega’s mice-and-cat puzzler Chu Chu Rocket.
Exactly how you do this is where Eets: Chowdown begins to show off its own identity. Basically, you adjust Eets' path by adding new hazards to his environment, which eventually turns the whole level into a sort of Rube Goldberg-type meta-device that puts Eets where you want him. It's similar to yet another acclaimed puzzle series, The Incredible Machine, but with a more organic feel.
There are two classes of item which you can insert into the world; the first is food. Eets is a creature ruled by gastronomics, and will gobble up any edible morsels placed in his path. Each type of food triggers a different mood, which has a domino effect on his behavior. For example, when he’s sad, he moves slowly and refuses to leap from the edge of a platform – which is handy to keep him from Geronimo-ing to his death. When angry, he charges forward and is not only willing to jump, he’ll vault himself much farther than he would if he was just in his default happy state.
The second, more interesting way to influence Eets is by placing user-triggered items around the landscape, all of which you set off using various face buttons. These include floating whales that suck Eets in and blowhole-launch him skyward, an orange, ghosty-looking Ginseng critter that can make Eets angry or set off explosive marshmallows blocking his path, and brown clouds that shoot tasty chocolate chips, just to name a few.
How this all fits together is the puzzle you need to solve each level. For example, you might use a whale to launch Eets over a Marshomech (a mech piloted by an evil marshmallow... duh). Then, when he lands, he gobbles down the scaredy-pellet you placed to make sure he doesn’t jump off the ledge to his doom. But then when he turns around and heads the other direction, you pound him with chocolate chips so he’ll get mad and leap far enough to land on another platform, where you’ve used a Ginseng to blow up the explosive marshmallows piled near a wall. This creates a hole in the platform, which Eets then drops through to grab his end-of-level golden puzzle piece.
It all congeals into a compelling little package, too. The flashy, splashy art style is cute without being annoying, new elements are introduced at a nice pace, and it’s just plain satisfying to create goofy contraptions that keep our charismatic little cartoon glutton alive and puzzling.
Eets: Chowdown is priced to move at only 800 points for a whopping 120 levels, and given the fact that the PC version (a demo for which can be found at http://www.eetsgame.com) already has expansion packs and more than 90 user-created levels available, added downloadable content seems imminent. Eets may not be quite right for twitch gamers’ palates, but anyone else should take at least a little taste.