The miracle of life is supposed to be something awe-inspiring. It’s science with a hint of quasi-mystery that makes the birth of a new organism something to give deep thinkers pause. Millions of years of trial and error have brought the creatures we have today to the sort of biological equinox that gives them viability in the present. A lot of chickens had to fail before our contemporary chicken could be THE chicken.
But the chicken isn’t perfect, right? It’s a bird that can’t fly. It has a small beak and tiny claws which are terrible for self-defense. Modern chickens have a long way to go before they become anywhere near something majestic. But what if you could force evolution with your own hands? Well, you’d probably become something that people would call both an artist and a monster. Luckily, Katapult released CHKN to Early Access on Steam earlier this month so that we can all find out.
CHKN is your standard survival sandbox in a few ways. You’re dropped on this deserted island filled only with wildlife with minimal direction. You have to eat food to live and collect materials to make items, which will in turn allow you to collect different material and make different items. Standard stuff, admittedly. But as you scour the beach in search of melons and sticks in order to begin building your castaway empire, you come across the most peculiar sight in the distance. A chicken… with 10ft long cacti for legs? You stand, aghast.
At least, that’s what I did. Not sure whether to run away or investigate further, the creature would make my decision for me, as it immediately ran at me in an angry fervor. I ran, but it was too fast. I had to engage. With stick in my hand, I swung it wildly, and after a tense back and forth it exploded into blocks of creature pieces. A gruesome and grisly sight, if it weren’t for the fact that CHKN’s art is heavily inspired by Minecraft.
At the end of the day, this will make up a significant portion of your CHKN experience. Clubbing “innocent” wildlife in the head and collecting the pieces that make them. “Better them than you” is the name of the game in this world.
Of course, life is cyclical, and you do not only need to be a bringer of death. You can also be a life giver with those creature pieces and recreate nature in your own image. That cactus legged chicken was a step in the right evolutionary direction. Tall and imposing to keep away predators, and aggressive enough to keep its herds alive. An inspiration all around. But you can do better, no?
Suddenly, this Chicktus has horns, maybe a spider for a face, and some extravagant wings. You’ve made the perfect, evolution busting chicken. And it’s terrifying. Before you can hightail it away from the abomination you’ve created, it snuggles close and claims you as its master. You’re a regular Frankenstein.
One of the more compelling processes in CHKN is creating your next nightmare creature. A game of self one-upsmanship spontaneously occurs every time you add crocodile feet to a snake body or peacock feathers to a bull. I even found myself wondering about the sort of ecosystems one of these hell beasts would even occupy. They morphed in my mind from something abjectly horrible to something more awe inspiring in a Dark Souls sort of way. Suddenly, your gangly chimera of a creature is roaming the countryside, an avatar to your divine and grotesque cruelty. With it, you will remain the dominate force on the island, its mighty and hideous shadow serving as a cold reminder to the rest of the food chain that you are the boss.
Then you will get hungry, and cook and eat it.