I vaguely remember watching Happy Tree Friends when it was on, but one thing that is ingrained in my head is how much my sister loved those sadistically cute animals. I also remember how my parents were so against it they wouldn’t let her watch it, and as an older sibling, I found it hilarious how upset she got about it. After some time away from the media, those murderous chickens, rabbits, and beavers are back to wreak havoc in The Crackpet Show: Happy Tree Friends Edition. Whether you’re familiar with the ultraviolent cartoon or not, it’s a wonderfully crafted roguelike that is at its best when you’re playing with others.
The Crackpet Show: Happy Tree Friends Edition plays out across various chapters where you have to slay countless enemies across procedurally generated stages. These stages can offer new perks, items, and weapons after slaying a handful of demented animals, a shop for you to spend your hard-earned cash, or a stepping stone to the next stage where violence is the aim. Once you’ve completed every level within the episode, you’ll be faced with a tough as nails boss. If you die, you’ll have to replay it all over again, however, if you reign victorious, it’s onto the next episode until you’ve completed the chapter.
Once you down a boss, you’ll gain access to trophies that can unlock permanent bonuses like a free heart in the first shop you encounter, enemies at range have less health, and new stages like the Stash Stage where weapons can be stored for later use. You’ll also unlock vouchers that can be used to purchase new skins, and special tokens that can be used to upgrade one of two separate items at a time. With many of these upgrades, it makes later episodes less challenging, however, you’ll consistently be faced with steep mountains to climb thanks to its punishing difficulty in later chapters.
While not impossible or at a similar difficulty as Dark Souls, it can take a while until you’ve got the upgrades or at least what weapons are best to equip. You start each run choosing one of four starting classes: Assault, Engineer, Medic, and Tank. Each has a specific weapon and item, and each can be complemented with the other. It’s not a big deal if you’re playing alone, but having, say, someone play a medic will offer important support while the other dives in to a gunfight with a handful of enemies. The tank can draw away gunfire, and the engineer can place turrets down or additional offensive support. If you’re not entirely happy with your starting class, there’re always ways to mix up your arsenal, almost feeling like an arbitrary inclusion.
Throughout The Crackpet Show: Happy Tree Friends Edition, you’ll gain access to new guns, whether you unlock them from a bonus stage, buy them from the shop, or choose to gamble from one of the store’s unhinged workers. Weapons have so much variety and offer various DPS, range, and AoE that you’re spoilt for choice. The Rainbow Gun shoots three colourful bullets at a time; the Indecisive Gun shoots random bullet patterns; the Melody Gun does more damage the longer you hold in fire; and my favourite, the Random Gun, will shoot varying projectiles from all of the guns you’ve found in the game so far.
On top of the ability to choose various weapons, you’re also granted access to tons of items that can be used. Force fields, explosive mines, tornadoes, and anvils are only a small selection of what’s on offer. You’re given a lot of variety, and working out what works best for you and your party is the difference between success and failure. For example, the second boss I fought fired boomerangs that bounced off the walls and returned fire at me. What’s worse is they also fired spherical bullets at the same time, so utilising the force field helped me no end.
Perhaps the best feature at your disposal are perks. Weapons and items alone aren’t enough to overcome the flurry of enemies you face, and thankfully, perks add an extra edge to combat. Spike Skin will damage any enemies that touch you; Meat Boys gives you a chance to reanimate an enemy and turn them into an ally; Big Bullets gives you, well, bigger bullets; Eagle Eye gives your bullets longer range; and Chain Attack connects bullets between enemies. Some perks will also aid you greatly as a team, such as one that allows you or a partner to have an orange aura, and whenever an ally steps inside, it does more damage.
Through various combinations and opportunities to improve your character, The Crackpet Show: Happy Tree Friends Edition is a fantastic and frantic title that is at its best when you’re with friends. The randomness of stages means you’re always changing your approach, and a constant stream of weapons, items, and perks keeps every stage feeling fresh. Combat is fluid and there’s little to concentrate on other than firing your weapon, dashing out of the way of gunfire, and using your special item, meaning you can have an absolute blast with your entire focus on blowing the crap out of anything that moves.
Tons of weapons, items, and perks
Colourful cast of characters
Great in co-op
Much harder alone
Classes seem arbitrary