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Chicken Little

Platform(s): Game Boy Advance, GameCube, PC, PlayStation 2, Xbox
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Buena Vista
Developer: Avalanche
Release Date: Oct. 20, 2005 (US), Feb. 10, 2006 (EU)

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GameCube Review - 'Chicken Little'

by Erik "NekoIncardine" Ottosen on Feb. 27, 2006 @ 1:07 a.m. PST

Live the adventures of Chicken Little and his gang of misfit friends -- Fish-Out-of-Water, Runt of the Litter and Abby Mallard, AKA "The Ugly Duckling" -- as the game catapults gamers into the hair-raising adventures of the movie and beyond. But it will take more than cool moves to complete each mission. Rocket jet packs, slingshots and hover boards get the characters out of sticky situations like alien invasions, spiraling asteroids, and corn field mazes. Saving the day takes an arsenal of gadgets, friends and hero power.
When the first thing you see after the company logo is the namesake character shaking his butt at the camera, you know this is not a game intended for adults, although the fact that it's a Disney movie should have made this obvious. However, with a little patience, Chicken Little is surprisingly tolerable for adult players, though no one should go out of his way to get this game.

The core of the game is a very plain, bland platformer affair, with you running and jumping around as Chicken Little, and bashing foes with your yo-yo (which inexplicably has pathetic range, yet can reach almost 50 feet to reach a grapple target), trying to work with the laggy and disabling slingshot controls, and solving incredibly annoying jumping puzzles. Lots of incredibly annoying jumping puzzles.

However, that style is only the technically most common. The majority of Chicken Little's levels are focused on similarly poorly implemented – though in a few cases, pretty fun – mini-game style levels and actual mini-games for the multiplayer mode. Mini-games include driving a fire truck, shooting a vintage cannon at aliens, and sliding down an alien sewer pipe which has gravity on all sides, and several two- and three-dimensional space shooter levels. In general, the mini-games are more fun than the platforming levels, but they're still completely sub-par in terms of fun and playability.

The game's graphics are kept simple, cartoony, and efficient. This pays off in short loading times and expansive, surprisingly good-looking levels. However, do not expect much interactivity with the environment, or particularly impressive effects. Cut scenes are either direct clips from the film, or made to resemble the film but really don't succeed, if you really look. The fact that they are stored in the RAM alongside level data (meaning zero load time between them, another sign of kid-friendliness in design) is both impressive and buggy. You'll see an image of the level for a split second before the opening cut scene starts, and again after the closing cut scene ends.

"Buggy" is also a good summation of the control scheme for the game, which is supposed to be simple and effective, but in most cases is merely clunky. Until the aliens start showing up, you won't be hitting anything with that yo-yo because the only enemy that will be attacking you jumps constantly, and your attack is purely horizontal. The grapple and swing controls sometimes fail to work for no visible reason, and running, jumping, and going into first-person view with the slingshot all have delays to them. It's most noticeable when firing the slingshot, which not only stops you from moving while you are aiming, but also for a second after you've fired. During the boss fight where you need the slingshot, this delay will drive you insane. Note, however, that most of the mini-games have spot-on, glitch-free, and much more effective controls, which leads you to wonder if Avalanche Games simply didn't care about the platforming as much.

Sound is noticeable in exactly two ways: the voice acting is one of the best things about the entire game and actually sounds like the movie, and the music cuts out when the loop ends, only to restart a second later. About the first or second time the player hears this, it becomes clear that either this game was rushed, or the programmers and/or sound producers skimped in optimizing this area. The actual sound effects themselves avoid the pitfall of trying to be "cute" and ending up annoying, but they're not especially good either.

One area where Chicken Little does not skimp in is its extra content, which goes beyond DVD-style "making of" videos or anything of the sort. Rather, the developers provide six mini-games which are unlocked by finding baseball cards of Little's father in the game levels. Most are based off of mechanics already used in the game, but one is completely new, and all have modifications specifically intended for multiplayer play. Taking the time to add in variable difficulty levels is also a nice touch, although the level designs (which are the primary source of frustration more than the brain-dead enemies) are unaffected by this.

Before you consider getting this game from the positive comments, however, consider the following miscellaneous annoyances. There is "fun" difficulty, and "annoying" difficulty, and Chicken Little has precious little of the former and relies mostly on the latter for any sort of difficulty at all. The first level goes to the old annoying standby of breaking up play to tell you about the controls, while at the same time providing more convenient, perfectly readable tips in a less obtrusive bar at the bottom of the screen. Whoever thought of having the menus twist and rotate around – the entire menu, not just the edges – should watch the result for two hours to see how dizzying the effect can be over time. Additionally, I can't explain why a stage marked "Final Boss" has two large levels after it, neither of which seems to relate to anything in the plot before then. Finally, most of the game's humor simply falls flat if you're more than 10 years old, and most of the spots and lines that are funny are gags from the film. "But I don't get to use the big voice all that often..."

In spite of Chicken Little having a few fun levels, I wouldn't suggest it to anyone over 10 years of age. For the rest, whether you absolutely must have a licensed game for every movie you see or must play this game for some reason, prepare for a mostly playable and tolerable experience that might have some fun moments here and there.

Score: 5.5/10


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