Jeremy Jastrzab
16 Dec, 2005

Chicken Little Review

PS2 Review | Hatched too early.
It must be hard for a developer when it comes to making a kid’s game. Firstly, you have to consider the medium that you’re working with, whether this medium has an impending movie release, the audience, the deadlines and so forth. Still, developers like Insomniac have managed to crank out a yearly title for the last few years and each has only been getting better. Chicken Little, a classic children’s book that just happens to have an impending movie release by Disney happens to fit this bill much better than it would like.

Chicken Little is based on the upcoming movie of the same name and is somewhat of a follow-up on the classic children’s book. It tells the story of (believe it or not) Chicken Little, a young chicken who is little. The reason we have a focus on him, is that he is responsible for ringing the town bell to warn everyone that the sky is falling in! It turned out that he was merely hit by a falling acorn and has never been allowed to live it down. One day, Chicken Little happens to discover that their quaint little town is about to be invaded by aliens but will anyone believe him? The game pulls the story forward with some very nice cut-scenes and the general way the story is told is quite good. It works, it gets the job done really well and more than adequately.

Unfortunately, the story is one of only a few things that the game really gets right. The game tries to play on the fact that kids have short attention spans by throwing a lot of variety into the mix. The big problem is that when you try everything, you specialize in nothing. In gaming terms, this is not a good thing. However, things start off reasonably well, it’s only once you get through the first few levels that you realize that there has been a trick or three missed.

Just don't let the Greens catch you doing that

Just don't let the Greens catch you doing that
Through out the games 24 levels, you’ll be asked to do a lot of things. You start off with a level that has platforming akin to the Sly games and you’ll progress to coin-collecting to a sequence where you’ll be flying (on-rails) while propelled by a bottle of soda. Between 1/3 and ½ of the 24 levels will have you platforming. The rest are distributed on some driving, some obstacle-laced corridor running, a dodgeball game, a baseball game, shooters and 3rd person mech riding. Variety is not something you have to worry about, but there are plenty of other issues instead.

In the platforming levels, you’re generally required to either collect something or go somewhere. For the most part the design is reasonably good. You don’t have to go to far and there was only one instance where we found ourselves in a situation that we couldn’t get out of. The levels are set on both in your town and on an alien spaceship. There are a couple of repetitive levels at the end but for its fresh for the most part. For the most part, you are making your way across a linear path by a series high-wires and platforms. The other times, you’re mainly required to gather items in a general area and to do this you’ll need to make use of all your skills. Chicken Little is equipped with a yo-yo, which he can use to clear paths and defeat enemies (all three different kinds of them). Later, you’ll earn both a grapple and a sling-shot upgrade that will help you get around some obstacles.

At the beginning, things seem fine and dandy. We were even surprised to find that the game had a very coherent camera. When jumping from platform to platform, it will (in most cases) obediently place itself behind you in a manner that in a comfortable and useful manner. Even in most of the other levels, the perspective is unlikely to bother anyone. Well the got one out of two important things right. But they seem to have missed out on something … oh, they forgot to refine the controls. Chicken Little is one of the most terribly controlled characters since the inception of 3D gaming. He turns wide, his jump is terribly low, inaccurate and sloppy and there are many instances where you’ll miss a grapple or important jump, simply because the controls don’t respond. To be fair, it’s easier to handle as the game progresses but it’s nothing that can be controlled easily or intuitively.

One of the more enjoyable levels

One of the more enjoyable levels
Control is an issue that plagues the majority of game. While the platforming levels are forgiving in terms of checkpoints, other levels are not. The only two levels that aren’t afflicted by poor control are the sports levels, which are reasonably well done and are marginally enjoyable. Simply, the controls are either too loose, sloppy or unresponsive. During the corridor levels, there is one where Chicken Little is running down a school corridor, towards the camera and you need to avoid falling cabinets. This task is made much more difficult due to the fact that the jump controls are so poor.

Many of the game portions and levels could’ve been a lot more enjoyable than they actually were. There are three driving levels, the first works reasonably well but the later two seat you in one of the most horrendously controlling vehicles conceivable. The result? Several, several attempts at one level because the vehicle has the distinct inability to turn or drive in a straight line. The shooter levels work but the controls are too loose to ever be comfortable. The levels where your sliding through tubes are fast and challenging but one slightly harder tap than needed will instantly send you flying of an edge of careening into an obstacle. The mech riding provides some shooting and gravity-induced tossing fun but the slow lumbering nature means that you’re a sitting duck for enemies.

Control ends up only being one of the game’s major issues. The above mentioned gaming portions are all afflicted by an unforgiving difficulty that F-Zero GX would’ve been proud of. One minor stuff up and it’s back to the beginning of the level. We’re sure that doing this dozens of times is unlikely to keep a kid’s attention. On top of that you have a myriad of common issues such as clipping, poor collision detection, dodgy physics and so forth. In all, it seems like the game needed more time in the incubator.

The playground of broken mechanics

The playground of broken mechanics
The highlight of the game is the cut-scene work. Since we haven’t seen the movie, we can’t say whether they’re ripped directly from their but either way, it’s not a good thing for the game. The rest of the visuals are very basic but still manage to capture the desired style of the game. Models are faithful but slightly underdone while things like the texture work are very under whelming. The frame-rate takes severe hits when the action gets a little hectic. Sound-wise, the voice-actors from the movie are reprised and they do a good job. Unfortunately, the in-game dialogue suffers the usual repetitiveness and the sound effects are only par. There is some music, but you could barely tell with it being really quiet and not particularly suitable.

The game’s 24 levels could be easily wiped through, if it were not for the fact that there are too many instances where a player is forced to repeat or start from the beginning. If not for the repetition and restarting, the game could probably finished in a sitting. There are twenty levels where the player can collect some cards. If all five cards are collected, the “set” can be used to buy mini-games to be played at any time. These mini-games are based on levels in game and there are a couple of multiplayer levels as well.

Chicken Little is what you’d expect from a game with an impending movie release and is something that gamers have become somewhat accustomed to. Regardless, when there are games in the caliber of Sly, Ratchet and Jak, there is little excuse or reason to consider this game. Even if it is considered just a kids game, it still doesn't make the grade. That is even with all the conventions that have been borrowed and all the variety that it tries to provide.
The Score
Chicken Little just doesn't cut the grade. If you play this game, chances are you'll want the sky to fall in. 4
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

Related Disney's Chicken Little: Ace in Action Content

Disney's Chicken Little: Ace in Action Review
07 Feb, 2007 He ain't so little anymore.
WRC Review
29 Nov, 2005 Can this title distinguish itself from the pack?
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