This article was originally published at Aussie-Nintendo.com
Open Season could normally be seen as just another game based on a family movie but this title gained much more notoriety with Australian Wii owners when it was originally announced as the “free game” with the Toys R’ Us pre-order deal. After playing through the five or so hours worth of play time, I can safely tell everyone who pre-ordered at Toys R’ Us that your very vocal indignation was more than justified.
Open Season is basically an adventure game with a few other genres mashed in simplistically through various mini-games. You play as either a grizzly bear named Boog or as an extremely annoying, scrawny, one-antlered deer named Elliot. Most of the game is spent playing as Boog who has to make friends with the various animals and help scare away all the hunters in the forest during open season by doing different set tasks. There is not a lot of variety with this as much of what you are asked to do involves collecting things or scaring hunters away over and over again. Scaring the hunters can be fun but it is much easier to run right up to them and throw them off a cliff or into a river than to sneak up and scare them. The gameplay differs occasionally with the racing levels which include mine carts, riding down a river on a portable loo and even as Elliot racing a large deer. There are also some shooting levels where you launch different objects at hunters to keep them away from trees or animals.
While the game is a port of the same game released on the GameCube, PS2, Xbox and Xbox 360 it includes pointer and motion control on Wii. So far in my playing experience with the Wii, all games have felt rather fluid with their control implementation however the inclusions in Open Season are not only the first I would describe as “gimmicky” but also the first I would describe as completely vacuous. Unlike in other games there is a major loss in fluidity with the control differentiating between awkward and broken. You control characters with the analog on the nunchuk and this works well but throwing, picking up and other tasks are done by thrusting the remote forward. This is both unnatural and completely unnecessary given that buttons work much better for these actions. If more effort had been put in to implementation I would have less complaint but this is a good example of Wii controls shoved in badly over a game originally developed with traditional game pads in mind. The worst aspects are the racing or chase levels where moving from left to right is oddly done by moving the controls up and down. The first experience with this is in the mine cart levels and I found myself repeatedly crashing before working out the confusing control style and then longing for a game pad. Salt, whiskey and paint thinner was poured on the wound in the broken down-hill snow level where the slightest tilt of the remote can send you hurtling off a mountain. There is also no option to adjust the controls at any point in the game.
The graphics in Open Season are exactly what you would expect to see on GameCube. The character models are the stand out of the game with some nice looking mouth movements and excellent character expressions. The levels unfortunately mostly look the same with different colours representing different seasons and most of the game play in similar looking forest areas. There are some destructible environments which work quite well and the few areas outside of the forest look good, it is just unfortunate there aren’t more of them.
Sadly Open Season does not feature any of the voice actors from the film which is a shame as it could have had the talents of Martin Lawrence, Ashton Kutcher and the always funny Billy Connelly. What we get in the game though are some imitators that don’t do too badly. The voice work is the best part of the sound in this game the one complaint being that there is just too much of it. Gameplay is constantly interrupted by animal conversations which will be amusing to the young but just break things up too much. You are able to skip through the dialogue but it would have been nicer if it was spaced out enough so that you wanted to hear it. The sound effects are all mostly average with the Boog’s growl being the stand out. There is not a lot of in game music but there are a few music tracks which are played at different periods from the options screen and at certain in game areas.
The game won’t last anyone long with about five hours of gameplay that is mostly repetitive and some levels with flat out frustrating controls. While there are some good ideas and fun moments (especially with the way you scare off hunters) there just aren’t enough moments like this in the game and it is over very quickly. Many people will be turned off by the controls before they get very far, I found myself forcing my way through the game at the half way mark. As you progress you do unlock some multiplayer mini games but these are all extremely simplistic and won’t keep anyone’s interest very long.
When the complaints start rolling in about this being the free game with the Toys R’ Us pre-order many people responded that people should be happy that they get the free game. After playing through this Open Season I can safely say that you are honestly better off without it. Open Season is by far the worst game I have played for Wii and is also the first game that has me longing to use my GameCube controller. I can not recommend it to anyone. If you absolutely loved the movie, you only own a Wii and you must play the Open Season game then I strongly suggest you buy the GameCube version. That way you are getting the same product, only cheaper and with controls that work.