Imagine for a moment that you’re a chameleon. But you’re not just any ordinary chameleon. You’re a chameleon trapped inside a perilous world full of hungry, relentless predators and unforgiving traps. You’re nothing more than prey. Are you smart? Maybe. Are you clever? We’ll see. In Canvaleon for the Wii U eShop, your natural ability to adapt to ever-changing environments and surroundings — by creating your very own camouflage patterns on the Wii U GamePad — will be heavily tested. And you’ll have to slip stealthily past danger while saving captured villagers along the way.
You fill the shoes of Canvas, a chubby one-of-a-kind albino chameleon from a small village who has been picked on his entire life. Heck, even his own parents rejected him. Your good friend Doodle, an artist, makes things a bit more pleasant and welcoming for you, however. Instead of letting Canvas run around like a colorless chameleon, Doodle uses his white body as a painting canvas — hence the lizard’s clever name. Doodle mixes and matches his paint selection by extracting pigments from the wings of colorful majestic butterflies.
One day, while Canvas and Doodle were out catching butterflies, something terrible went wrong:
Following an alien assault, Canvas realizes his homeland is laden with ruthless baddies and countless dangers. He must complete each of the themed stages on a vast overworld map by combining cunning stealth with finely crafted camouflage patterns. Stages resemble everything from mouth-watering ice cream and bright blue water to tropical jungles thriving with colorful vegetation. Making use of camouflage patterns is not a requirement for completing a stage, but it certainly helps out. See, each enemy has a field of vision which allows them to see at a certain range. If you fall within that range while not outfitted in the correct camo, you become the next prospect for chameleon chowder. One hit and you’ll be sent all the way back to the beginning of the stage; there are no checkpoints to speak of and there are no difficulty options to choose from. It’s one hit and you’re done. Period.
Stocking up on camouflage patterns is done by accessing the Camo Shop, which happens to be ran by your pal Doodle. You can either purchase pre-made patterns by exchanging butterflies — the game’s currency — you’ve collected in stages, or you can craft them from scratch using the Wii U GamePad. When crafting your own, you can make use of a tool called the Pigment Extractor. This is where you can deposit butterflies into totem poles for each of the five main butterfly colors: black, white, cyan, magenta, and yellow. From there, each totem extracts pigment (pictured below) from its offering, giving you its respective color to paint with. Which ever method you choose for obtaining camouflage, you’re going to need butterflies. And lots of them. As camouflage patterns are used, they wear out. Pre-made camo lacks the quality offered from those manually created, so you’ll have to spend butterflies to repair them on a more frequent basis.
This is the point where I began to lose interest in the game’s initial appeal. Of the dozen or so stages I played through, I did find a bit of enjoyment; each was well-designed, controls were responsive and smooth (I preferred using the D-pad), and there were elements that felt familiar to Donkey Kong Country — such as vines and funky jungle beat music. As I progressed, however, I found the constant crafting of camouflage to be quite repetitious and tedious. Each of the 30 or so stages has a different main look, which means creating a similar camouflage pattern will help you become one with the background — allowing you to more easily slip past the dangers.
As mentioned earlier, using camo is not required to beat a stage, but it helps immensely. Taking that into consideration, it’s often worth a shot to try and craft a good pattern to take along with you. My problem with this is that the crafting soon takes over the fun and challenging stealth gameplay action I had hoped for. While whipping up camo on the Wii U GamePad, I often felt Canvaleon focused too much on the art aspect. On top of that, you can’t create patterns on the fly while playing a stage. Instead, you have to exit and go back to Doodle’s Camo Shop to do it. Sure, you can take up to four different patterns with you, and switch freely between them while playing each stage, but it just wasn’t seamless enough. If I had to adjust a pattern to make it more realistic, I had to exit the stage entirely. That wasn’t fun for me. This also brings up another point: When you’re not in the stage, it’s often very difficult to remember the kind of pattern you’re supposed to make. There is a gauge, however, that displays a percentage of how accurate your pattern is, as seen in the screenshot below.
The good thing about making the patterns is that they don’t have to be perfect. In the screenshot above, my pattern is 53 percent effective. I’ve tested the accuracy out on numerous occasions, and have learned that if the percentage does not fall below 50, you can safely move past enemies without them discovering your presence. You probably also noticed a meter to the left of my pattern. While in a camouflaged state, the meter drains. Once it runs out, you’ll have to go back to the shop to have it repaired; I’ve never had a problem with the meter running out while playing a stage. The meter also starts fresh at every stage, too.
While I’ve never encountered bosses, some stages do have them. Defeating each one gives you a special power to use, which only helps you progress a bit easier. For example, beating one boss earns you a “Double Jump” ability that makes it easier for the chubby lizard to reach platforms otherwise too high. Throughout the game, 24 CDs are stashed in various stages. Finding each one adds a song from the game’s OST (original soundtrack) to a Music Player, which can then be played at any time. Finishing each stage rewards you with a lettered rank; “S” rank is the best. Rank is determined by how fast you cleared a stage, how many times you were detected by enemies, and how many enemies you defeated. For the record, I was never able to figure out how to whip enemies to death with my long tongue. Finding those imprisoned villagers will also add to your rank.
Canvaleon paints a fun, often frustrating and tiring experience, but it’s one of the better quality indie eShop titles. Focused around creating various camouflage patterns on the Wii U GamePad, the art of crafting becomes a bit too repetitive — too quickly. Add to that the game’s relentless packs of baddies who take you out in a single shot, sending you back to the starting point of each level without checkpoints, and you’ve got an interesting combination for an artsy stealth platformer. Canvaleon has some catchy music, respectable gameplay, and offers a bit of replay value, but it does come a bit overpriced — largely evident by the lack of player posts in the the game’s Miiverse community.
Canvaleon is developed and published by OXiAB Game Studio. It launched in the North American Wii U eShop on July 23, 2015 for $11.95.
Review copy provided by OXiAB Game Studio