IGN Review of Open Season
The recent trend in movie-to-game releases has evolved to get the game on shelves well before the launch of the movies. Whether that's just to get a jump on the bandwagon sales, try to get on the market in case the movie sucks, just to make game reviewers' jobs that much harder will always remain a mystery, but whatever the reason it's getting more frequent that gamers can "spoil" the movie by diving right into the videogame renditions well before they get to sit down with a tub of popcorn to experience the film that inspired it. Ubisoft rushed Open Season into stores more than a week and a half early, but the DS version doesn't have that rushed to market feel -- the game may play a little repetitive for a Lost Vikings' style design, but it's a surprisingly solid and fun title that pushes some impressive 3D visuals on the handheld.
Open Season doesn't have the luxury of an extensive cutscene to tell the tale of how Boog the bear and Elliot the deer became pals and partners in this action puzzler game -- apart from the clever dual-screen FMV title screen, the game's entire storyline's told through the handheld-familiar talking heads with text presentation. Essentially, without putting spoilers from the movie in this review, you -- as Boog and Elliot -- must work together to get from the start of a forest-based level to the next, earning Ranger patches that note your progress.
Picture a furry version of Lost Vikings and you've got an idea of what to expect with Open Season. Because Boog's a huge, lumbering bear, he can't get through certain passages or jump. But he can carry crates and climb up short ledges to gain access to the next portion of the map. Elliot can ram into things and jump over obstacles, but he can't pick up items other than the bunnies you need to throw at enemies or objects. Boog has the added ability to grab Elliot and toss him into places that the bear can't gain access to -- both characters can move independent of each other within the world, with players swapping between each other via touch-screen buttons. You'll need to have the two characters do their specialties in different locations to help each other out.
From the start, the game's pretty darn impressive in both the visual and audio categories -- the game's main portion runs in full 3D and at a silky smooth 60 frames per second. Character animations are incredibly fluid, with a lot of life injected into both Boog and Elliot's motions. The environments offer some good detail as well, though much of the visuals are repeated over and over again throughout the different locations -- other than the occasional change in texture coloring and the layout of the puzzle, each level looks pretty much like the one before it. The music is suitably catchy with a hillbilly banjo-and-harmonica theme that we're assuming is what will be used in the movie's soundtrack, but the characters voices are simple "Oofs" and "Grunts" performed by sound-alikes that are definitely not Martin Lawrence and Ashton Kutcher.
The game itself is solidly designed with some decent level layouts that do get tougher to figure out the deeper you get. Many of the levels focus on taking out squirrels, skunks, and porcupines with rabbits picked up along the way (a funny game mechanic early on), but the potential isn't explored enough in this design because players can simply do away with these hazards with a "Roar!" option that can be earned with icon pick-ups that are just a little too plentiful.
As fun as the single player game is, the variety of these levels sort of caps at the second world, and with three more worlds to romp through after those initial two the discovery element is limited to the silly mini-games that are scattered between them. And honestly, don't look for anything classic here -- most of these touch screen games are derivative and pointless, like blowing into the microphone to keep a helicopter aloft, or plucking porcupine quills from the bear's backside.
Some of the touch screen elements in the single player game are a little unnecessary, too. When you die, for example, the only way to revive and continue on is to tap on the cartoony stars circling your character's profile. Was this really necessary? We'll say no.
The biggest surprise about Open Season is that it's one of the rare third-party game to support the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection for its multiplayer. Yes, we though it was a typo as well. Unfortunately, the game's demographic sort of prevented us from exploring the online mode -- sitting on Worldwide connection for several hours a day resulted in no link-ups. It supports the Friend Code feature as well, so if you know a buddy with the game you can simply bypass the middleman and connect directly this way. And, of course, there's multi-cart local area play as well. No Download Play function, though, so you'll have to grab a second cart for any two player competitions.
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