Wii | Midway | 1-2 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (pointer); Wii Remote (sideways)
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24th May 2010; By KnucklesSonic8
The game's Story Mode is where you'll be spending most of your time. In this mode, players will go through a total of 33 stages, completing various objectives to advance the game's storyline. The story is pretty faithful to the movie, following Mumble's adventures from his early steps right down to his confrontation with the "aliens". Each objective falls under one of three categories: Dancing, Belly-Sleeding or Swimming.
The dancing stages are somewhat reminiscent of the gameplay you'd see in Dance Dance Revolution. Players move the controller Up, Down, Left or Right in the direction that the arrows indicate as they reach the Arrow Meter at the top of the screen. There are three difficulties available: Easy, Medium and Hard. Unless you're below the age of 8, you should stick with Hard mode as it does add a bit more challenge. But even on this setting, the game is still very easy once you realize that you can shake your controller rapidly in the direction the arrows will appear and still execute the motions perfectly. It's not exactly surprising as the game is oriented to younger audiences but still, it would've been nice if this aspect of the game was harder since it can get boring.
In Belly-sledding, players engage in downhill races either against an opponent or a timer by holding the Wii Remote sideways. You simply tilt the controller Left and Right to move in the desired direction, and press the 1 Button to jump if need be. It would be rather disgraceful if the developers weren't able to get the motions down right but thankfully, they do work surprisingly well. Additionally, if you hold the 1 Button and swing/tilt the Wii Remote whilst in the airm you can perform a trick which will nab you a speed boost if you land it properly. Stages are pretty spacious, containing winding paths, big jumps and even scenery that looks rather nice. Overall, this is the best aspect about the game simply because of how fun it can be for younger audiences, especially once they start executing tricks properly.
Swimming, the third main gameplay feature, is an on-rails affair that actually proves to be not only fun but also very challenging for children. Swimming over bubbles will replenish your Air Meter but to be honest, you'll rarely come close to running out since they appear rather frequently. The game also contains a nice speed boost system that really makes the game more enjoyable than it otherwise would've been. Swimming into a whirlpool will give you a very quick speed boost that will fill your Boost Meter to Level 1. If you can get three in a row, your Boost Meter will rise to the highest level and so long as you don't miss a whirlpool, you'll travel at a consistent, quick speed that really makes this aspect about the game fun. Although this fast-paced system is very difficult for a child to master in later stages, it can be very rewarding for those that can wrap their heads around it.
In connection with each of these three gameplay elements, the game will ask you to perform various mission objectives. For example, Collection missions will obviously task you with amassing as many of the collectables as possible. Checkpoint stages require you to get the highest time you can by the time you reach the goal. Finally, underwater Flee stages are boss events that can actually be somewhat frightening for a younger child. Essentially, you have Mumble in front of you with the boss creature chasing after you. When the boss is about to strike, there will be indicators showing you where he'll try to aim his attack so you can move out of the way. These sequences were handled better than expected but they're still a bit annoying to have to play through and not really enjoyable when compared with the game's other mission objectives.
Happy Feet also features a medal system that rewards players for their efforts in each of the game's 33 stages. While the Dancing stages are really easy to get Gold Medals on, checkpoint races and boss fights will actually prove to be significantly more challenging, almost daunting for a younger child. Flee stages award you Gold Medals for having lives at the end of a boss sequence and in one stage, you have to reach the end of the level without getting hit at all. This can actually be kind of difficult for a young child especially if they find the boss fights a bit intimidating. Really, though, it's the Swimming stages that will give you the most trouble since you need to be quick and use almost every speed boost if you hope to meet the demanding time requirement that the Gold Medal asks for.
Collecting gold medals will earn you unlockable in-game movies so it does give players something to strive for beyond the normal completion of the Story Mode. However, once you unlock the last Gold Medal, all you'll unlock is the last movie and nothing more. It's actually very disappointing that you're not rewarded with something more for your efforts, especially when you consider how difficult some of the medal requirements can be. It also leaves you with very little to go back to once you complete the game.
Although some aspects about the game feel rushed, presentation-wise, the game is better than expected. The vast stages in the racing stages, for example, are actually pretty good with some nice details for a game that would normally be thought to have poor graphics. The in-game movies feel a bit rushed in certain areas but they're not bad for a kids game. Beyond the tracks from the movie, including Brittany Murphy's rendition of Boogie Wonderland, there are also some instrumental works that appear during gameplay that are actually well-suited to the type of gameplay that exists. What's also great to see is that the framerate is fairly consistent, even when going at fast speeds in the Swimming stages. There are some hiccups here and there in the game's cutscenes and even in gameplay itself, but it's not as bad as you'd expect it to be.
In hopes of increasing the replay value of the game, the developers included a "Family Mode" (seriously?) which allows you to play three different mini-games with someone else. Dancing is what you'd expect: two players battle it out to one of three songs, seeing who can get the highest accuracy rate. Because of how easy this game is, it's not very enjoyable and wears off very fast. In Swimming, two players race in one of two underwater stages to find scattered collectables, with the goal of being the player who finds the most at the end. Although Belly-Sledding would suggest a race to the bottom of the mountain, two players must actually work co-operatively in one of two stages, with one player controlling Mumble and the other player pressing sequences of buttons to break large obstacles.
For those that do play this mode, there are two aspects about this mode that seem a bit odd. For one, in both the Belly-Sledding and Swimming mini-games, it would have been a lot more fun if they actually let you have a two-player race. Also, it doesn't really make sense why they didn't include more stages for each of the mini-games because after a while, some may get sick of the mode entirely. It can be somewhat fun for some children but I can guarantee you that most won't even feel like coming back after trying it once or twice.
So, can I recommend this game to anyone? Well, not really. Even if you're a big fan of the movie (like I am), the game still doesn't offer much to come back to beyond achieving Gold Medals which aren't even worth going for anyway. If you're a parent looking for a game that their child can play to get used to the Wii Remote's controls, Happy Feet can actually be rather good for that purpose. Admittedly, some elements are fun such as the Swimming and Belly-Sledding missions, but in spite of these redeeming aspects, the game isn't even worth $20 (let alone the $50 asking price it once had)!
17/30 - Below Average
Gameplay 6/10 - Controls work well, Dancing isn't that great, Belly-Sledding and Swimming have their moments of fun
Presentation 6/10 - Nice detailing here and there, good audio, some technical issues but graphics aren't as bad as you'd think
Enjoyment 3/5 - Some of the missions are fun for younger audiences, but other aspects are either annoying or dull
Extra Content 2/5 - Collecting all Gold Medals is worthless, offers very little to come back to, some replay value in Family Mode
Equivalent to a score of 57% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)