Review by Arkrex
"Bear throws Deer, and they all lived happily ever after"
I didn't expect much from the CG animated film, Open Season; having Martin Lawrence voice a big grizzly bear and Ashton Kutcher a yapping deer seemed like one of the worst mismatches ever. In all honesty the movie wasn't too bad, but it was still just another good-looking visual feast with lots of fur, but no soul.
The DS licensed game on the other hand has got plenty of what the movie lacked, and initial impressions are surprisingly good. Some ingenuity is shown here, but even a good thing done over and over again will turn sour eventually.
Visuals - 7
Sound & Music - 7
Gameplay - 6
Controls - B
Longevity - B (4-5 hours)
Replayability - C (No level select, nothing to collect, minigames are a passing novelty)
Difficulty - Medium
Tag-Team - 8
VERDICT - 6.5/10
Open, please come in
Open Season opens up with an excellent FMV opening, but past that there are only a couple of storyboards to tell you what's going on. No biggie really since you don't expect a simple portable port to offer much depth in this department. However it would have been nice had the levels you go through had some link to key plot events. As it is, you guide Boog the bear and Elliot the mule-deer through 24 linear levels of forest and plains, without any proper direction whatsoever.
Trees, rocks, grass.. oh and there's another tree!
There are 4 main areas to explore, each comprising 6 surprisingly lengthy levels, each clocking in at around the 10 minute mark. Although the graphics engine pulls off some detailed, textured polygons running at a smooth framerate (there IS some slowdown at times though!), each level looks nearly identical to the last. You go from a greeny landscape to a brown one, followed by a yellowish hue to finally round off with some more green. In short, the look gets rather dull as you plonk on. And although technically done well, the more realistic visual style here isn't as appealing as the more animated one featured in the film.
The prospect ot having to go through 24 similar looking environments may have turned you off already, and the level design doesn't help much either; there are too many times when you will be repeating the same task over and over again. The hook is that these tasks that you will have to perform are always funny to watch, challenging to accomplish at times, and the tag-team play focus makes things all the more enjoyable.
Throw 'em up
In getting to the end of each level there are plenty of obstacles in your way, both animalian and mechanical. You will have to overcome everything from nut-chucking squirrels to smelly skunks, and later on some 'experienced' human hunters. The way to do so is always the same in every case: throw something. That sums up what the bulk of Open Season is about. Have Boog pick up a rabbit and toss it or Elliot bowl them over with a hedgehog, it's all the same thing, and after doing it well over a hundred times, I'm sure you can guess how I feel.
There are also a couple of puzzle-based scenarios which involve a little switch-hitting and platform-making. Again the solution to it all lies in throwing things around the place. The tag-team dynamics are pretty interesting the first few times you try them, for example you can have Boog throw Elliot up to the top of the hill who then proceeds to ram down a crate, and now Boog can use it as a step to climb up. There are more than a few times where you will have to work in tandem in this way, but more often than not the answer lies in - you guessed it - throwing ducks, gas containers or just little Elliot himself. Because it's always the same thing all the time, the later half of the game will pass by very smoothly, so at least you can progress quickly and unlock all the minigames without much hassle.
Speaking of minigames, there are only 7 of them in all. They are simple affairs and are pure novelty material. There is no score tracking of any sort, and so you play them once and then you probably will never want to again. The final boss battle isn't all that good, but at least it's something different to everything else (but it is still about throwing stuff.. again). Once you have completed the game, you don't get a level select mode; you have to replay from the beginning. And having this boss fight absent from the minigame list is a shame.. bah, you probably won't care much anyway. Replay value is very low to put it lightly, especially since the game is pretty long (seemingly) and tedious as it is. Open Season is also WiFi enabled, but God knows why; 1 short minigame and who do you think you'll be able to connect with anyway? Just another experimental tease from novice developers.
There are 2 areas this game excels in, other than the pair-play Lost Vikings-esque mechanic. One of them is sound. The country-rock style music is good, but the tracks are repeated every third level or so. Variety ain't the spice of this life. The sound effects are excellent though. It's all very crisp and clear when Boog huffs & puffs as he strains to climb up stuff, when Elliot charges like a mad mule, or when they yelp in pain from a prickly encounter. A lot of exchanges occur between them as well whenever they help out each other. Surround sound is also integrated and adds to immersion, but this isn't quite the engrossing-type game in the first place.
The other hit struck here was with the novel humour. When you game-over, you will have to literally pop the dizzy stars that appear over the fainted character's head to replay; when you restart from a checkpoint, Boog flushes and exits the dunny house; when a brutish deer blocks your way, Elliot can ram it's backside to move it out the way; there are plenty of big gates that block your way throughout, and to break them down you have to chuck Elliot at it while he is screaming all the way to the crash. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments that stay funny no matter how many times you see it, so although the gameplay does get rather stale, you will still push on because of the many times a big smile waits at the other end.
As a platformer, Open Season is above-average, but no more. The controls work well, but there are times when Elliot just won't follow Boog when he is meant too. This commonly occurs when you climb onto a lift platform, only to have Elliot not get on which means you have to wait for it to go back down again while you twiddle your thumbs. The '2/3 showing in front' camera is something that I dislike in my platformers (as you should know by now if you've been reading me much). It makes those bits where you have to carefully dodge loose tumbling logs or hedgehogs all the more troublesome because of the quick view-shifting as you manoeuvre left and right. Even though you have a life bar which allows for 3-4 hits usually, it means squat at times since there is barely a temporary post-hit invincibility period here. What this means is that should you suddenly be shot by a 'humane' hunter, he could probably 'juggle' you to death in a flash, especially as you try to make your escape only to have your partner lag behind only to get hit and die.
Open Season brings in some fresh ideas with the tag-team approach which is a gimmick that I'll always stand up for. The first hour is great, but then you do the same thing again and again with ever-slight variations. Soon the novelty is lost, and it starts to become generic platforming action. Enemy variety is slowly introduced, and as you progress through the loose story, enemies become friends, that is more ammo to throw. It is interesting in how they are used, but sadly this means each level only focuses on one or two enemy types at a time. You don't need any knowledge of the movie make sense of what Open Season offers, and you're probably better off not trying to tie things together. If you are looking for another dose of duo gaming, are able to tolerate a less mature setting, and love throwing things, well it's open season!
6.5/10 - Funny and unique, but it soon wears thin.
My Score System a score of 7 from me denotes a good, solid game. Excellence earns a higher grade, whilst 4-6 reflects a below average product; glitchy, unplayable games deserve less.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 04/04/07
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