Platforms: PC, PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch
Chenso Club is an action-platforming rogue-lite developed by Pixadome. Aliens are attacking, and it’s up to the titular Chenso Club – five badass heroines with their own unique play styles – to save the day. You can play the game solo or with a friend in local co-op.
Like most rogue-lites, Chenso Club follows a tried and true formula. As you progress through the game you’ll battle enemies and bosses across randomised arenas, take on risk/reward challenges, gather upgrades and eventually best the final boss or die horribly along the way. Either way, you’ll get kicked back to the start so you can do it all over again.
Chenso Club does have its own novelties that give it a different flavour. Combat works a bit like Super Smash Bros., with different attacks tied to different directional inputs. Go outside the boundaries of the screen and you’ll take damage; knock enemies off screen and they’re dead.
Much like Risk of Rain 2, you can keep on running through stages and gathering upgrades before you tackle the final stage, but as you do the enemy will progressively get stronger as well.
One unusual feature for a rogue-lite is a choice of difficulty settings, including a mode intended for players who just want to enjoy the story. You can also choose to start at any stage and clear them one at a time – useful for unlocking the other playable characters quickly, or practicing individual stages.
Presentation is Chenso Club’s strong point. The pixel art is nice and chunky and the heroines have simple-but-charismatic designs. The enemies have an ugly-cute vibe that’s reminiscent of Newgrounds era games like Alien Hominid. Everything is vibrant and colourful, and the comic-style cut scenes tell a simple but enjoyable story. There’s also an excellent soundtrack with catchy, upbeat tunes.
Chenso Club does fall short elsewhere, though. There’s only six stages (including the final gauntlet) and not a great variety of enemies, obstacles or challenges. Most of your runs will feel samey because the upgrade pool is shallow and upgrades barely affect how you play. The post-stage minigame is cute at first, but gets tired fast. NPCs only ever offer one type of challenge, and sometimes the challenge ends in the very next room.
The core gameplay is a bit weird, too. It’s hard to describe, but Chenso Club feels fluid and stiff at the same time. Inputs are responsive and movement is quick, but the limits on attacking and dashing make the game feel rigid. Much of your time is spent in the air, but that’s where your controls are at their most limited. I constantly felt like there should be a double jump button, but there isn’t one.
Some of the characters feel like they have half a move-set, too, with several attacks having little practical use and others being dominant. Again, you’ll be in the air a lot, so characters with bad aerials are at a severe disadvantage. The screen-sized bosses make this especially apparent, since you’re forced to use jumping attacks over and over to best them.
Speaking of which, the final boss is a real mess. It has a single weak spot that’s hard to reach and a large health pool and, to make matters worse, the screen is cluttered with enemies and projectiles, making it frustrating and tedious to land any hits. Even with 200 HP, it’s possible to get whittled down to nothing because there’s so little room to manoeuvre.
Chenso Club is a solid, enjoyable rogue-lite, but it’s not without flaws. It has enough novelty factor to merit a look, especially if you’re into couch co-op. It looks and sounds great, too.
Unfortunately, it’s on the shallow side in terms of content. If you’re a one-and-done player, you can comfortably see the whole game in just a few hours, but the extra difficulty options might give hardcore players a reason to come back for more.
What Chenso Club does differently isn’t going to change your mind on action rogue-lites, though – it doesn’t aspire to reinvent the wheel, and that’s fine. Every game that comes out doesn’t have to be revolutionary. But the genre is feeling quite saturated now, and it’s getting harder to stand out – and I’m not sure that Chenso Club does.
In short then, if you’re looking for more of the familiar, then you’ll probably like Chenso Club for what it is. But if you’re looking for a new flavour, you may want to look elsewhere.