If you asked gamers about the stereotypical games, you might hear something about shooters set in World War II or role-playing games set in a land of dragons and wizards.  Sometimes games come at you from out of left field with a premise so off the wall that you can’t help but to notice it.  That happened last year with the release of Total Overdose.  Now Eidos is attempting to duplicate that portably with Chili Con Carnage on the PSP.

In Chili Con Carnage (CCC) you play as Ram, a man who is visiting his father at the Federales building on his father’s birthday.  Ram’s father is just about ready to bust a huge drug trafficking case.  As Ram is giving his father his new birthday gift of kittens, his father is killed by a hay combine harvester.  Ram is upset and decides to go after the killer of the father.  Besides, who will think of the kittens which died unnecessarily?

The graphics in CCC are a mix of impressive and disappointing.  Your main character looks very good and his animations are smooth as silk.  Watching him run up a wall and do a cartwheel looks lifelike with the Matrix-style slowdown.  While the secondary characters that you fight don’t have the same level of smoothness, they look better than most games.

Another impressive feature of the game is the variety of characters you’ll encounter.  Each level has its own specific set of characters which match the feel of each level.  While certain characters repeat during the level, there is enough variety that you won’t feel like you’re fighting the same guy over and over again.

The developers have paid attention to the little details.  The vehicle door open and close.  If the vehicle takes damage the doors start to flap around.  Shooting a chicken causes feathers to fly.  Explosive barrels light up and fly into the air.

Unfortunately, the polygon models of the characters look rather weak.  The edges are very jagged and blocky.  The textures are rather blurry and bland as well.  It’s really hard not to be distracted by them.

When you first start CCC, the intros for the game have been done to incorporate a Mexican flare.  The first music you hear is the Mexican hat dance.  You hear it played over and over.  Still, it matches the game theme well.  Other times you’ll hear a cacophony of Mexican rap.  I never thought I’d hear anything like it, but it seems to work for the game.

The voices in the game are more disappointing.  The voice of Ram at his father’s gravesite sounds like it was phoned in.  Ram is supposed to be distraught and yet there doesn’t seem to be any emotion behind his voice.  All of the other characters have a heavy stereotypical Hispanic accent.

Shooters on the PSP have been tricky because of the small amount of movement in the analog nub and the lack of a second analog stick.  Still the developers have done a good job handling movement.  Movement is handled with the analog nub.  Left and right on the D-pad changes weapons, while hitting down rewinds your movement for a few seconds incase you want to undo a mistake you made.  Entering vehicles is done with the X button while exiting is done with the Circle.

Shooting is done with the Square button.  Looking around is done with the Circle button and moving the analog nub.  Shoot Dodge moves are made by hitting X and moving the analog nub in the direction you want to move.  Hitting the Triangle button lets you use the Loco Mode power up.  Using L targets objects while R aims for a headshot.

The auto-aiming mechanism works very well.  Most of the time it accurately aims at the enemy that you want to although far away enemies may be difficult to hit.  However, while going into the Shoot Dodge you can end up with a very strange camera angle that makes shooting and movement awkward.  While you can usually correct it pretty easily, you can lose a lot of health if you are being ganged up by the enemy.

When you start out CCC, you start out with a pistol.  As you shoot enemies, they drop weapons for you to pick up.  They range from your typical guns to Molotov cocktails.  Each weapon behaves differently too, so you definitely know the difference between firing a shotgun and some machine guns.

Playing through CCC, you notice that the levels are fairly linear.  There are a few areas for you to explore, but nothing that makes you wander too far from your path.  It is also difficult to determine where you need to go to sometimes, especially when you are moving over crates.  A little direction would have been nice sometimes.

There are roughly six levels with three sections each.  At the end of each level is a boss battle.  They are more challenging than some of the other enemies, but once you notice a pattern it’s not difficult to defeat it.

In between level sections, you can go through and play different Challenges.  In the Style Challenges you have to complete specific moves given to you.  While the instructions are simplistic, performing the moves can be a real challenge.  The Macho Challenges have you take out a certain number of enemies while keeping your combo going.  A Survival Challenge has you keeping a combo going while not getting killed for a specific amount of time.  These help to break up the game.

These power ups give you a temporary special move.  The Golden Gun gives you an automatic headshot with a view similar to Max Payne.  The Hurricane lets you spin in circles and take care of enemies all around you.  Plenty of others are available as well and you pick them up so often you can use them almost constantly at some points.

The biggest draw of CCC is the stunts you can pull while shooting at the enemy.  Diving an all directions, walking up a wall and doing cartwheels, and twisting while diving are all done with style.  The game assigns extra points for extra cool stunts.  It is kind of fun to try to catch a hat after an enemy goes down.  If you do catch a hat, you get to wear it.  The problem is that you can almost do these constantly, slowing down time as you do it.  This removes a lot of challenge from the game. 

The enemy AI seems to have a mob mentality where they all like to either stay in one place or charge you when attacking you.  Having the AI stand around like shooting ducks once they are in position to fire at you makes them easier to hit, even with the delayed targeting.

CCC has more style coming from it than most other shooters these days.  Setting the game in some Mexican area is interesting since they’ll be talking to you in English.  If you don’t care for dark comedy, you might want to look at a different shooter.

CCC has about six levels with generally three parts each.  The first two parts are regular levels of the game with a boss battle during the third part.  Each level has a fair amount of substance to it, but the length is just right for portable systems.  You can also go back and replay any levels you’ve played already to try to improve your score.

Two multiplayer modes are available.  In Fiesta, you play against friends in Ad-hoc mode in a room full of enemies and try to get the highest score.  You don’t actually play in the same area though, so it’s not exactly the same kind of competition you’d get from a deathmatch.  You also have to unlock the levels to host them.  In Hangman you play on a single system against other friends and try to rack up the highest score.  It might be fine if you can find friends to play against, but it doesn’t add that much replayability to the game.

Chili Con Carnage does stand itself out because of the setting, the dark humor, and the crazy stunt moves.  While the game isn’t long, it’s long enough to feel satisfied with the purchase.  CCC won’t blow you away by the graphics either.  It does have some solid gameplay though.  In this day of me-too action games, you could definitely find something worse than Chili Con Carnage.