Double Fine Happy Action Theater Review
It’s funny how I use an older quote like this to talk about a new game like Double Fine Happy Action Theater, but, hey, it’s true. A lot of these developers have gone off the deep end creating Kinect experiences, to the point that they’re less about fun and more about the precision of things — the exact opposite of what they need to be. That being said, Double Fine, the developer so obviously mentioned in the game title, gets how a Kinect experience is supposed to be. They proved that last year with the entertaining Sesame Street’s Once Upon a Monster, a game that turned out to be just as much fun for adults as it was for kids. Now they’ve struck again with Theater, a game that’s not really a game at all, but rather an interactive simulator that sucks the player into one of many scenarios that interacts with them. In a way, it’s like a demo reel, but one that’s very well worth the 800 Microsoft point investment.
You step in front of the Kinect, start up the game, and away you go, scattered across a number of interactive scenarios that resemble those you’d find on any given Hollywood tour. (It’s kind of like Microsoft’s You’re At the Movies, but far better, and not nearly as costly as that piece of garbage was.) One minute you’re flinging snowballs in an all-out war; the next you’re trying to keep birds at peace on your arm, and paying the price by being nibbled away if you manage to irk them. There’s also a cool kaleidoscope-like effect, where you see your on-screen character take a huge part, as well as a flowing pool of lava that you can do some dog paddles in, without the burning sensation melting you away.
The game doesn’t have any specific goals to meet in each exercise, nor any sort of competitive angle in which you have to do better than other players. While that may turn off those who prefer taking someone on, it also opens up the amusement factor of the game, as you can’t lose, and you’re applauded by a virtual audience no matter what you get done. It’s a rather ingenious idea, and one Double Fine executes with utmost exactitude.
The Kinect reads you perfectly within Happy Action Theater, as it never really feels like you’re disjointed from the action. On-screen animals and objects react to not only your movements, but those of your friends, as well; five others can join you and partake in the fun. Tell me you won’t have a good time at a party flailing away at a barrage of oncoming balloons, just for the sake of popping as many as you possibly can. The sound is equally noteworthy, with music and sound effects that keep up with your on-screen actions.
Even though Happy Action Theater doesn’t offer anything for the long-term — like bonus situations to unlock or the ability to create your own — it’s the best piece of demo tech we’ve seen for the Kinect in ages. It’s simplistic, enjoyable, and diverse enough that it deserves an addition to your game library. And for that matter, Microsoft should consider adding this to every Kinect device it sells from hereon in. It’s an ideal way to show first-timers just how fun motion gaming can be.
Even if birds do nibble away at you. Bet that never happened to Richard Bach.