The first thing you do in Chuchel, a new comedic adventure game, is feed a green blob in a top hat some water. Give it enough, and it will spew out liquid like a faucet, right into the mouth of a strange fuzzy orange ball. The ball, in turn, will get so rotund that it will roll directly onto the game’s lead character, who has been idly dozing in a cardboard box the whole time but finally awakens. This is far from the strangest moment in the game.
Chuchel is the latest release from Czech developer Amanita Design, a studio best known for its charming, and often bizarre point-and-click adventure games. That includes the surreal Samorost series as well as the heartwarming Machinarium, a game about two robots in love. Thematically, the studio’s games are often very different, but they all share many of the same characteristics: they’re gorgeous, surreal, and they don’t rely on words to convey a story or feeling. Chuchel is the same, but it’s also the funniest game the studio has ever made.
Chuchel is about a black, fuzzy ball-like creature in search of a juicy red cherry. Every time it gets close to the cherry, the fruit is taken away. (A giant hand comes down from the sky and plucks it, a sentient blob of gelatin hides the cherry in its belly, or the fruit gets trapped behind a huge punching robot on wheels.) Chuchel channels classic slapstick cartoons like Tom and Jerry or Bugs Bunny. Its hapless hero is always trying but constantly punished. It might get crushed by a heavy stone block or fall gracelessly out of a tree. At one point the main character is actually chewed to bits by a herd of angry ladybugs.
This goofy premise is combined with the structure of a classic point-and-click adventure game; think something like Maniac Mansion or the Monkey Island series, but much more streamlined. Chuchel is divided into a series of small scenes, and in each one, you can interact with characters and objects to solve a puzzle, and hopefully get the cherry back. Things, as you’d expect, get quite weird. In one scene you have to figure out how to silence a group of eight singing creatures, and your only tools are fruit that change the main character’s shape when eaten. Later, you need to smash open a sentient egg with a giant spoon, in order to release the baby chickens inside.
For all of their weirdness, the puzzles are surprisingly intuitive. Adventure games are notorious for convoluted and often inscrutable puzzles, but Chuchel somehow manages to avoid this. The things you have to do in the game are strange, sure, but they make a certain kind of sense within the logic of the world. Part of this also comes down to just how playful Chuchel is. You want to experiment with all of the different interactions because of how silly they are, and this, in turn, gives you ideas for how to actually progress. (There’s a hint system that shows you what needs to be done, without spoiling how to actually do it.) Chuchel also breaks up its plentiful puzzles with more lighthearted arcade sequences, where you do everything from pilot a leaf through a maze of bouncy balls, to play bizarro-world renditions of Tetris and Pac-Man.
This lack of frustration in Chuchel is especially important because of the game’s tone. It’s an experience that feels designed to make you smile constantly through a combination of playful interactions, goofy sound design, and whimsical characters. The scenes are so strange and hilarious that you can’t help but laugh, whether it’s because of a gelatinous blob that taunts you with musical laughter, or a collection of hats that change the weather when you put them on. There’s so much charm put into every small aspect of the game, and it would be ruined if you constantly found yourself stuck trying to figure out how to get past a particular puzzle.
Luckily, I didn’t experience any of that in my time with the game, of course, your mileage may vary. Instead, I found an experience that was equal parts delightful and strange, one that encouraged me to press every button and turn every knob. It’s silly in the best possible way.
Chuchel is available now on PC and Mac.