The idea of releasing a new animated motion picture once a year isn’t a new one, nor is the idea of making a game to coincide with said movie to cash in on the phenomenon. Movie tie-in games have never been a fan-favorite amongst most players; especially ones that focus on the younger demographic that thinks pressing up and down for two solid hours is somehow engaging. While Midway’s Happy Feet may not be the biggest offender of this policy it still only offers three basic game types that it repeats over and over throughout the entire experience.
Happy Feet revolves around the character Mumbo from the movie, who quickly becomes an outcast by his friends and family when they learn of his terrible singing voice. As Mumbo you will be tasked with completing a series of mini games to progress through the game. Like I mentioned above there are only three types of games to be found and two of those are even very similar in nature.
The first type of game is a sort of Dance Dance Revolution style that has you pressing the corresponding directions on the d-pad. This was enhanced for the Wii by adding the ability to simply whip the Wii-mote in the desired direction, but seeing as the game is aimed directly at children the motion sensor seems a bit forgiving.
The other two modes are so similar that they could have just as easily been one. The first is penguin swimming which will have you following another character while trying to dodge obstacles and collect items along the way. The second is penguin sledding which uses the same core functionality as swimming, but in this mode you can destroy some barricades and acquire speed boosts. Both of these modes play extremely well with the Wii’s motion sensor, but also feel very similar in design thus creating a very one dimensional game.
What is most disappointing though is that none of the game is really broken or unplayable; in fact for the most part kids should have no trouble enjoying the game itself. What hurts it in the long run is the simple lack of diversity among the game types. If Midway had fleshed out some of these events or even added in a few new ones it would have really benefited the replay value. As it stands though you will be able to master each type of game within one to two play-throughs and really not find much reason to come back for more.
Visually the game is obviously a port, with passable character models and some stiff animations. The environments look as good as you could expect from snow covered areas and the water effects aren’t going to win any awards, but then again this is a kid’s game and it does replicate the movie enough to appease its target audience. The sound is also very well done, even without the original movie cast voicing the characters. The sound-a-likes that Midway brought in for this game are so good in fact you would be hard pressed to tell the difference.
With its simplistic game mechanics and lack of diversity Happy Feet isn’t going to set the world on fire. However if you are a huge fan of the movie, or for that matter your kids are, then there is nothing inherently wrong with the game either. It would have been nice to see a larger roster of mini-games or at least variations of the ones currently here, but what is here gets the job done. If you can’t get enough of the singing and dancing penguins of Happy Feet then give it a whirl, otherwise save your money for Wario Ware.