Chambara

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Chambara Game Poster Image
Innovative stealth fighting game with mild combat effects.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Promotes friendly, competitive social-gaming experiences without glamorizing, sensationalizing battle.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Fighters express themselves only through stealthy combat, which makes it seem as though they're interested in nothing but fighting each other.

Ease of Play

Basic controls for movement and combat, but no handicapping option to balance matches between players of different skill levels.

Violence

Up to four human-controlled silhouetted characters strike each other with canes, swords, even swordfish. A single successful hit will knock out an enemy. There's no blood, gore, or yelps of pain.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Chambara is a downloadable multiplayer stealth fighting game. There's no gore or death, but players attempt to knock each other out with weapons such as swords and canes. In place of blood, characters leave a sprinkling of whimsical monochrome shapes -- maple leaves, whales, and so on -- on the ground.

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What's it about?

CHAMBARA pits up to four local players against each other in stealthy first-person combat. Each player begins by customizing their fighter by selecting a weapon and a hat. These are just for show, though, as they make no difference to characters' abilities. Once in the maze-like arenas, it all comes down to skill and strategy. Fighters are monochromatic and blend in perfectly with any part of the environment that matches their color, becoming essentially invisible until they move in front of a contrasting color. Since the game is split-screen, players can glance at their opponents' views to figure out where they are. But a strategic tap of a trigger lets you close your character's eyes, cleverly eliminating this potential exploit -- though it also renders the character with closed eyes blind. Once you find an adversary, you have a couple of choices in how you can approach them, opting either to try to sneak up and whack them with your weapon (you need hit them only once to knock them out) or risk a quick dash move that ends with an attack. The dash combined with a generous leaping ability can also be used to scale walls and reach higher ground to gain a better view of the arena and those within it. Note that Chambara is designed to be played with at least one friend in the same room. There's no option for online play.

Is it any good?

This is a deceptively sophisticated first-person combat game. With only a couple of modes, a handful of arenas, and a simple set of attacks and movements, Chambara is, on the surface, somewhat shallow. But its clever color-based stealth element gives it surprising depth. Arenas are cleverly designed to favor fighters of different colors at varying elevations and quadrants, encouraging players to learn and stick to areas that are of advantage specifically to their fighter. And players who ignore the closed-eyes mechanic to keep opposing players from using the split-screen setup to their advantage do so at their peril.

Nearly as important as stealth is learning to move around the arena. The controls are a little finicky -- it can be hard to control vertical ascents with the dashing ability -- but working out how to quickly and efficiently climb to higher levels can be both a pleasure and smart strategy. Understanding how to use a shuriken -- which must be collected after it's thrown -- to stun a distant enemy before moving in to attack is another advanced tactic that can make a major difference once mastered. More modes and arenas would have given Chambara longer legs, but there are still hours of local competitive fun to be had.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about screen time. It typically takes only a little over five minutes to complete a round and under an hour to work through all available maps, so how many matches do you think should constitute a healthy Chambara play session?

  • Talk about playing with friends. This is a fun game to play with friends in the same room, but it can become frustrating if one player is significantly better than the others; do you get frustrated playing against someone with more skill or experience? How do you feel if you're the better player and your friends are constantly losing?

Game details

  • Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
  • Price: $12.99
  • Pricing structure: Paid
  • Available online? Available online
  • Developer: Team OK
  • Release date: August 2, 2016
  • Genre: Fighting
  • ESRB rating: E10+ for Fantasy Violence

For kids who love social play

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