Chicken Little - PS2 - Review
Chicken Little wanted to be a lot of things. It wanted to be an action/adventure. It wanted to be a space shooter. It wanted to be a sports game, and a racing game, and incorporate pieces of Crazy Taxi. Technically it became all of those things, forgetting that as important as variety is, there is one thing that precedes it: continuity.
Chicken Little starts like a great action/adventure should: with a big, obstacle course-style level. Slide down pipes and wires, ignoring the threat of gravity and electricity. Chicken Little has a yo-yo that doubles as a weapon and a grappling hook. He'll use it periodically to ward off robot clones of himself (made by one of his bratty classmates, it seems), and to climb poles and swing across large gaps. These mechanics are on par with the best in the industry. I didn't know what to expect from the game, but that first stage put a smile on my face.
...Which lasted for about 10 minutes. The following stages drove the game down a different path, having short- to medium-length mini-games in place of real action/adventure stages.
Too easy to be long-lasting fun. It only takes one hit to eliminate your opponent from the round, but Chicken Little was allowed to stick around after a hit. Handicaps are lame and should be reserved for the easiest play modes (I was playing with the “normal” difficulty setting).
A frustrating mini-game that won't go away. First you're running away from a bully, then you're running toward something, then you're sliding down a circular tube in space, etc. They're too slow and need more check points. I'd get close to the end and have to start over because I crashed into a wall. The controls are less open since you're restricted to moving down the predetermined path, whether that means you're running toward or away from the screen does not matter.
Chicken Little has two kinds of space battle mini-games: one in the vein of classic shooters (top-down shooters like Ikaruga) and one in the vein of Star Fox (the original Star Fox, not the ridiculous GameCube iterations). Each are no more than a few minutes long but the game considers them to be full levels. The top-down shooter is pretty fun and provided the best challenge. Dodging laser streams is never easy, and with only two kinds of weapons (missiles and unlimited lasers) at your side, defeating enemy ships takes a little more strategy than you'll expect. This might be the one moment in the game where Little Timmy can hand the controller to his big brother and he won't object.
The Star Fox-inspired stage gives you a third-person view of the ship. The level constantly moves forward -- there's no stopping, backtracking, or multiple paths to explore. Basically you're expected to shoot whatever comes near your ship to stay alive. Cross the finish line (one is floating in space for no apparent reason) and you're done. Onto the next.
Another mini-game that won't go away. Though you only end up behind the wheel a couple of times, both last so long that it feels like an eternity. The first couldn't be any simpler. Chicken Little's friends hop into a tiny red car and cruise the area for things like groceries and paper deliveries. This could've been fun – if Crazy Taxi can make it work, why can't Chicken Little? But the controls are terribly slow. Sharp turns should be a breeze, and backing up should be too. Instead backing up could cause your vehicle to spin out. I like the idea. It's intended to help the player turn around and drive away quickly, but it doesn't work very well.
Kids are going to have a love/hate relationship with this one. I know that when I was a kid I'd see a movie and think, "Man, if only I could take control of the alien ship!" Chicken Little has these weird pod-like ships that have four legs and shoot lasers. The film was being developed at the same time as the new War of the Worlds movie, but I feel the novel must've influenced the design of these pods. I can't say how it happens without revealing the latter half of the story, but Chicken Little gets the chance to control one of the pods. The controls aren't too bad, but it isn't the most fun mission. Alien robots strike in full force, coming out of their replenishing tanks if there was no end. Shoot the tanks long enough times and they'll blow up, stopping the flow of robots until you enter the next room. Laser beams block your path; the goal is to figure out how to kill the lasers and the robots before your pod's energy depletes.
Clearly game developers are listening to us – we're just not saying the right thing. "We want more variety!" is all we say when a game is repetitive. But that's not all there is to it. If it were, Chicken Little would be king of the genre. With over five completely different types of gameplay, players will not have to experience the same kind of level twice in a row. There are a ton of CG movies and exclusive clips that were made specifically for the game.
If this was all that it took, I wouldn't have to continue. The truth of the matter is that even with multiple types of gameplay Chicken Little is still a highly repetitive game. With the exception of the first level the game seems too long. It's not - you could finish it in less than half a day. But the levels tend to drag on, whether you've completed it in five minutes or 20 minutes. The real time doesn't matter.
Review Scoring Details for Chicken Little
Scavenger hunts, space battles, joyrides through town – it's all here, and very little of it works. If you were to play each and every stage independently it might be Ok, but it's hard to get past the repetition that develops within each stage type. They created more than one kind of stage to avoid repetition, and like a relentless virus it found its way in there anyway, infecting the gameplay from the start of the second stage.
Chicken Little's character models are a close match to the film, but the backgrounds vary from stage to stage. I was impressed with the overall look of the first stage – very colorful and imaginative. Some of the later stages, especially the space battles, don't pack the same visual punch.
Zach Braff as Chicken Little, who would have thought? He plays the character well without making him too weak or too nerdy.
With the exception of the gaps between check points (which is more frustrating than challenging), Chicken Little is a pushover.
Lots of game types, not enough game. Chicken Little is one of the most original attempts at bringing variety to a genre that's known for being repetitive. Few of the mini-games end up living up to that first, magical stage, but as far as concept goes Chicken Little does more than most.
Time-killing mini-games that marginally expand on the rest of the experience.
Chicken Little is a winner for originality, its decent soundtrack, and the professional voice-overs from the stars of the film. It's a loser for its disappointing idea of variety. Their best bet would have been to make every single level different.
The first action/adventure stage is fun but the rest are boring. Finding Chicken Little's baseball uniform could've been a cool scavenger hunt had it been designed differently.
One thing that doesn't seem to obvious at first is that every single stage is linear. The game covers that secret up well with environments that appear to be big and wide-open. You're not allowed to go off and explore. The missions were made to follow the film's story, leaving little room for franchise growth.