"Play is divided into four worlds that are split into an average of six stages. There are three flavors: platforming, aerial combat and ground demolition. Ace (the glamorous equivalent of Chicken Little) is the guy who goes on foot, beautiful Abby takes to the skies and Runt drives a hulking beast of a tank around the various stages. None of the modes are astonishingly good on their own, but together the package is quite enjoyable if only because you never have much time to get sick of one approach before youíre switching to the next."
When you make a movie about a chicken saving the world from a fate worse than implosion, itís difficult to produce a second act thatís anywhere near as good as the first. There are two obvious options. You can make everything bigger and flashier, or you can delve deeper into the lives of the characters audiences loved so much the first time around. Chicken Little: Ace in Action does a little of both. As a sequel, itís just different enough to warrant a second look if you didnít like the original, yet similar enough to its predecessor that fans of that game will feel right at home.
The story opens with Chicken Little, Abby, Runt and Fish sitting around a television set. They have a new video game. Itís loosely based on the film even more loosely based on the time they saved the world from certain doom. Theyíre skeptical about how good it will be, since they didnít particularly care for the glamorous route the movie industry took with their story. So they start their gaming session. As the player, youíre along for the ride. When you begin, youíll hear lots of snide comments in the form of voice-overs from the original actors. It might sound like an annoying feature, but itís humorous enough that youíll likely welcome each new critique. Part of the gameís charm comes from the way itís not afraid to poke fun at its own generic plot. The voice actors here do a great job of capitalizing on that strange dynamic. If youíre like me, youíll wish there were more wisecracks.
Humorous commentary from the sidelines is only one change to the Chicken Little formula, though. Youíll notice bigger differences in the actual game mechanics. Play is divided into four worlds that are split into an average of six stages. There are three flavors: platforming, aerial combat and ground demolition. Ace (the glamorous equivalent of Chicken Little) is the guy who goes on foot, beautiful Abby takes to the skies and Runt drives a hulking beast of a tank around the various stages. None of the modes are astonishingly good on their own, but together the package is quite enjoyable if only because you never have much time to get sick of one approach before youíre switching to the next.
Aceís stages are the ones that will probably remind you of the first game. He doesnít jump as quickly as Chicken Little did, but he does move well enough that you donít usually feel like youíve lost control. He can leap across wide gaps and use his rocket pack to float, he can lift and toss giant bits of fruit and he can even equip boots that allow him to walk up some walls. Mostly, though, he just strafes and fires bullets at anyone foolish enough to get in his way.
Abbyís zones ramp up the complexity a bit. Here, the developers put the Wii Remote to more significant use. The nunchuk controls the shipís movements. You even pull it back or rock it forward when you want to ascend or dive. The Wii Remote is used independently to direct your gunfire. Initially the dynamic is awkward, but after the first stage or two youíll find it quite natural. Thatís a good thing because the final stage is an exhilarating rush that wonít leave you any time to consider the controls.
Finally there is Runt, the most frustrating of the characters. His tank moves slowly except during speed boosts, and there are plenty of times where youíll find yourself driving circles around opponents and firing bullets, only to run into a wall that halts your movement at the worst possible moment. Then you have to slowly back up while patiently moving the Wii Remote to the side so that the camera will spin into focus. Youíll run into that frustrating situation with each of the three characters, but Runt is the most frequent offender.
With that said, the Wii Remoteís overall effect on your enjoyment is neutral. On the one hand, you get controls that really make exploring the various stages fun. During such moments, youíll be glad youíre playing the game on the Wii. Then, seconds later, you run into those instances where youíd kill for the PlayStation 2ís second analog stick. The crosshairs sometimes leave the screen and take a moment to return, by which point you might well have been gunned down in a volley of enemy fire. It doesnít happen often and itís certainly not enough to ruin anything, but it canít be ignored entirely.
Since Ace in Action has so many pieces that donít immediately seem like theyíd fit together, from multiple control schemes to the different play styles, the developers needed something to hold everything together. An eight-hour adventure may not sound like much, but it can wear thin if you donít feel attached to the characters or excited by whatever might come next. I already mentioned the sense of humor, but it bears repeating simply because itís so consistent throughout most of the game. As Ace and his friends explore the galaxy, they say all sorts of amusing things and find themselves in rather silly situations. There are some laugh-out-loud moments, like when the crew is interrogating a villain, or when Ace and Abby are reunited after an agonizing separation. The voice actors--particularly Adam West--give the game an immediate appeal thatís hard to resist. In spite of myself, I found myself caring for every one of the one-dimensional characters.
If plot isnít your thing, though, thereís also a beefy upgrade system thatíll keep you coming back for more. Each character can learn special attacks and can gain better offensive and defensive powers, but youíll have to pay for every improvement. You gain the credits you need by completing stages and grabbing items within them. Each level has a time to beat, and youíll gain huge rewards if you manage to do so. There also are trinkets scattered about. Youíre seldom asked to engage in an outright fetch quest, yet the reward if you do so is significant enough that you may do so anyway. Thatís a nice way to handle things because the choice is left in your hands. Youíre also allowed to replay favorite stages as often as you like without navigating an irritating level hub or something similarly stupid. Thatís another nice touch.
Chicken Little: Ace in Action is a difficult game to rate. Thereís not really anything it does as well as the best of its competition, yet it crosses every ĎTí and dots every ĎIí so effectively (and at times, so charmingly) that itís hard to care about the lack of true innovation. If youíre looking for a decent adventure to keep you busy for 8 or 10 hours, look no further. Itís quite probably the best license-based game on the Wii to date. All over again, Iím hoping for a sequel.
Staff review by Jason Venter (January 12, 2007)
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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