"While theyíre certain to keep everyone entertained, anxious to see what the next level brings, the differing game styles may be disorienting to younger children who arenít experienced at quickly switching skill sets. The ease with which they quickly finish the first few stages will quickly evaporate once Chicken Little and friends discover the real threat, an alien invasion of sorts."
Chicken Little doesnít have what you would call an enviable life. Ever since he rang the village bell to alert the townsfolk that the sky was falling (then found out that no, it was just an acorn), heís been the victim of ridicule and bullying. As Chicken Little the game opens, the eponymous protagonist misses the morning bus ride to school. What no one realizes is that the plucky little bird with nerdy glasses is about to take part in an amazing adventure that will help him to shed his bad reputation like so many molted feathers.
The remarkable day begins unimpressively. Guiding Chicken Little through the first few stages wonít take much effort at all. He nimbly hops or double jumps short distances with ease. His initial weapon is a yo-yo that he can also use to scale drainpipes, flagpoles and such. Later on, heíll gain a grappling ability and a slingshot he can use to target distant switches or enemies. The camera is controlled with the right stick. Itís all pretty basic. After all, why fix what isnít broken?
When you reach the schoolyard and find the doors locked, youíll be asked to gather coins to pay for a soda pop. This is after youíve already been encouraged to find tickets (most stages include five that you must gather in order to unlock mini-games for multiple players). Not only that, but youíve probably been busting apart certain pieces of the level for life-replenishing acorns. So yes, there are a few fetch quests. Thankfully, Chicken Littleís developers donít rely on them the way some might. Once you grab that soda, youíll shake it to create a makeshift rocket pack. Then youíll take to the air, dodging obstacles as you blast toward an open window. Thatís all in just the first stage.
Level two finds you sliding through a hallway, jumping to avoid falling lockers and stacks of books and even your classmates as they flood the corridors. Then thereís the third stage, a not-so-friendly game of dodgeball. Here you meet the other characters in the game, who youíll sometimes control somewhere down the line. Clips from the movie make each plot twist memorable, thanks to first-rate voice work from the likes of Steve Zahn and Zach Braff, among others (yes, that cameo near the end really is voiced by Adam West). Even when youíre not watching digitized film, spoken dialogue accompanies lively character models. Kids should eat this up, and itís a treat for grown-ups with a sense of humor.
A few stages after the fateful dodgeball match, youíre playing a rhythm game in order to hit a baseball out of the park at the big game. Then, the next level sees you driving a car around town, gathering items and making deliveries. Chicken Littleís variety is both the gameís strength and, at certain times, its weakness. While theyíre certain to keep everyone entertained, anxious to see what the next level brings, the differing game styles may be disorienting to younger children who arenít experienced at quickly switching skill sets. The ease with which they quickly finish the first few stages will quickly evaporate once Chicken Little and friends discover the real threat, an alien invasion of sorts.
Suddenly, reflexes are key. Youíll wander through levels and creep along narrow ledges, pilot a space vehicle that fires lasers at swarming enemies (there are some rudimentary puzzles here), drive a truck down cluttered passageways and more. It gets to be daunting, and that problem is exacerbated by spotty hit detection and cheap deaths. While you can continue as many times as you like with no real repercussions, often within the middle of levels (sometimes checkpoints are almost too frequent), there are a few exceptions where the game suddenly bites you in the butt and you have to apply all of your gaming skills just to make it through. Suddenly, the tickets you might be able to collect donít really matter, as youíre too busy hoping you can just reach that next save point quickly and in one piece.
By the end of the game, things can begin to wear thin. Sure, there were funny movie clips to keep me going, and the excellent play control doesnít really change much. However, things just feel cheap. Getting most of the way through a stage while driving a fire truck, only to run into a moving crate or car and have to start all over just isnít much fun. Climbing along the side of a barn while balancing on teetering bits of lumber, then falling just before reaching my goal and having to do it all over againÖ that isnít much fun, either. The thing is, every tiresome stage seems to be followed by some new objective thatís totally awesome.
To cite another example, one particularly enjoyable stage finds Chicken Little guiding his friends through cornfields while aliens scout for them. You must avoid spotlights while you search for your pals. Itís a stealth game! Another break from the norm is viewed from overhead as you pilot a spaceship through the outer reaches of space, blasting anyone who gets in your way. Itís a vertical shooter! Then there are those moments where youíre sliding down tube-like passages while dodging out of the way of electrical currents, flaming geysers of fire and more. ItísÖ something!
At the end of the day, the diverse moments all come back to that point I keep making: the game has variety. It has it in spades. While thereís not a single stage that really blows your mind, most of them are well-designed and a good deal of fun. Even if you come across a section you wish you could skip, youíll be through it in no time and onto something thatís more fun. Then, you can go back and play your favorite levels to grab the tickets you missed use them to unlock mini-games to play with your friends, children or siblings. No, Chicken Little isnít perfect. Itís just fun.
Staff review by Jason Venter (November 18, 2005)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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