This article was originally published at Aussie-Nintendo.com
Happy Feet is closely based on the highly successful Australian produced movie of the same name. In the game you play as Mumble, an Emperor penguin with a talent for dancing (but not for singing) who goes on an adventure meeting many interesting characters on the way. It is just one of the many movie license Wii games released on launch and features three different play modes, all of which use the Wii remotes motion sensing function. If you are expecting a deep gameplay experience then this is definitely not the game for you but if you are looking for a simple bit of fun (especially for a young child) and you loved the movie then this game might be ideal, despite its flaws.
Happy Feet features three different play styles that are mixed throughout the game. The first one you are introduced to is a dancing game which operates very similarly to Dance Dance Revolution and Donkey Konga. Rather than use a mat or a pair of electronic bongos you simply move the Wii remote in the direction the scrolling arrows are pointing at an appropriate time. This sometimes feels a little bit stiff but overall it works well and it is also the only part of the game that features a difficulty level with the standard “easy, normal and hard” settings. While playing it is entertaining to watch the little penguin boogie and make various comments as he goes, it also has some entertaining music from the movie which is well used during this part. Sadly it is no deeper than described. Simply moving the remote in time and getting most right will get you through and there are no extra points for style just a gold, silver or bronze for accuracy at the end.
The second play mode you are introduced to is an underwater area. As in the previous level you are given a short and entertaining tutorial by a group of Latino accented penguins. The swimming levels require turning the remote on its side and twisting it up or down to ascend or descend in the water and tilting left or right to turn. This works very well and the characters movements feel realistic. In this mode you will be either on a timed check point race or have to collect various items in the sea. There is not much variety in this as the biggest differences seem to be the time of day (light or dark), the items you are collecting and to add to this repetitiveness, the levels all look pretty much the same. I am not absolutely sure whether or not the various levels are in fact exactly the same which does not speak very well about their design.
The last of the play modes in Happy Feet are the downhill racing levels which are probably the most entertaining portions of the game. As in the previous games you are given a brief tutorial in the first level. The mode is controlled similar to the underwater game with the remote held on its side and tilting used to move the penguin side to side. Tilting the control forward will speed the character up and you are also able to jump using the buttons. As with the previous game the levels involve either racing or collecting and there is no variety outside of this. The game is fun and fast-paced and is perhaps best compared to the speedy rail levels from the Sonic Adventure games.
All three play modes are easy to learn and fun to play at first but they quickly become repetitive and the obvious similarities in all levels constantly make you feel you are repeating the same three levels over and over again with a few cosmetic differences to make it seem new. If you want to replay the levels there is little to do apart from improve your score and earn medals, most of which a regular gamer will achieve on the first run through. The two racing style levels are the better of the three but they are also both on rails which while not always a bad thing, really hurt an already repetitive game. On the plus side, young children will find this easy to pick up and play and this is probably the only saving grace as the fun will quickly wear thin for most.
The graphics in Happy Feet are competent for GameCube so they aren’t doing any favours for Wii’s lingering image of “GameCube 2”. Realising this is a port from the GC build explains but does not justify the lack of improvement in graphics. On the positive side the characters look good and the mouth movements match the voice work when the characters speak. More on the negative: the game is set in a barren land of snow and ice which partially explains the lack of variety in the levels but more could still have been done. The environments unfortunately match the gameplay in their repetitiveness and leave the game looking very shallow once you have played the first six or so levels.
Certainly the best aspect of Happy Feet is the sound. This game features some really well done voice work direct from the movie with the vocal talent of Elijah Wood and EG Daily who did the character Tommy on the Rugrats cartoon. The one disappointing aspect of the voice work was Brittany Murphy’s awful singing when covering a classic Queen song. The game features music from the movie which is generally upbeat and energetic. The young will especially enjoy watching penguins dance to songs such as “That’s The Way (I Like It)”. The music during gameplay is also good but not memorable and there are sometimes noticeable breaks when the tracks loop. The effects are nothing special and probably the worst aspect of the otherwise great sound.
Happy Feet will not last any competent gamer more than a few hours assuming they are able to play that long. It is designed for kids and is extremely repetitive to say the least. This will be fine for gamers under the age of 10 but even saying that, I have memories of easily mastering much harder games at the same age. The game does include a two player mode which will extend the life slightly and there are some unlockables to gain from getting gold medals on the levels. Many gamers will find themselves getting gold on almost every level first go and it seems impossible to actually fail most levels.
Overall Happy Feet brings some fun moments which quickly become boring from repetition. What is there, works well but it is a shame that the game couldn’t have had at least a few more play modes and bit more variety. The voice work is excellent, the music is good and the graphics look competent for GameCube. It won’t last even small children very long but it would be a decent experience for a small child who loved the movie and perhaps a parent for a little while as well. The game is very obviously designed for young children and the people I should warn away probably won’t be reading this review.