Open Season (Nintendo DS) - Review by Andrew
If you've been paying any attention to the cinema this year you can't help but have noticed just how many full-length CGI movies have been released and we haven't even reached Christmas yet. Open Season is SONY's offering to this somewhat overcrowded genre and the story goes like this. When a domesticated grizzly named Boog gets lured into leaving the creature comforts of home by a fast-talking mule deer named Elliott he finds himself lost in the woods just three days before hunting season begins. Forced to "rough it" in the great outdoors, Boog goes native, rallying all the forest animals to take back their home and send the hunters packing. Ubi Soft has bravely opted to release this on all formats including the three current handheld platforms but are they worth your time and, even more importantly, your money?
Open Season is probably best described as a co-operative action adventure as it's only by working together that you'll progress through the game. There are lots of obstacles and problems to overcome although the 'spoon feeding' nature of the game's layout never makes the missions too overwhelming. You'll find you'll use Boog the majority of the game as he has more brute force and is able to dispose of stunned squirrels and hunters with ease. This is only really required early on in the game though because once the various creatures learn to trust you they become harmless and some of them actually become useful. As a result they can be used in a variety of situations which can' t be solved otherwise. Elliot is the other playable character who can be thrown by Boog over short gaps and to ledges above in order to activate buttons or push boxes into Boog's path. You'll do lots of swapping for reasons that become apparent as the game progresses. None of the puzzles ever seem impossible though and even if you do fall to your death there are more than enough checkpoints to cut down that 'restart the level' frustration.
Your objective in each level is to reach one of the elusive Ranger Badges, which you must arrive at as a team. Once you have collected enough it's off to one of the mini-games and more storytelling thanks to a collection of text and static screens. In true DS style all of these mini-games, once unlocked, can be revisited from the main menu, which gives the whole package that much needed replay value. A Multiplayer mode is also available, which not only allows for two-player bouts (although you will require an extra copy of the game) but also allows gamers to play against anyone in the world by connecting to Nintendo's Wi-Fi service. Unfortunately, and unlike say Mario Kart, we were still looking for people to play with after several hours so while it was a good idea by the developers clearly not enough gamers think so.
Intuitive and responsive even with the constant changing of perspectives although the constant swapping between characters can become tiresome.
Visually the game looks almost as good as its big screen outing with detailed characters and pleasing animation running at an impressive 60 frames per second. There's also one of the best uses of FMV we've seen for a long time as the two main characters attempt to find one another during the titles. The only real gripe is that the backgrounds don't really appear to change that much. Yes, they are very well designed and there's enough variation in the actual landscape design to separate the areas, it's just that the actual colors remain almost the same.
As with the visuals, production values are very high here and the country bumpkin' tracks work perfectly with the on-screen action even if they do repeat a little too quickly and often. On the down side the main characters don't have an awful lot to say for themselves outside of the odd grunt although we have come to expect this from movie tie-ins.
During the actual game there's little use of the enhanced DS features but this quickly changes with the entertaining mini-games. Almost all of these require you to utilize the DS's unique features in one way or another from simple sorting games with the stylus to more complicated episodes where you must transform one of the hunters into Sashquatch by using a combination of covering him with honey (with the stylus) and then attaching feathers to the sticky solution (by blowing into the microphone).
Open Season could have easily been just another run of the mill movie tie-in were it not for the considerable efforts of the development team who have raised the production values to a level generally only seen in first party titles. There's nothing really original in the gameplay and things can become a little repetitive. The bulk of the game is given over to tried and tested ideas from the past decade or so. The mini-games are still nice though and the on-line multiplayer a welcome bonus (if you can find anyone to play with). Overall this is certainly well above the general handheld offspring of a big screen outing and certainly one of the better examples on the DS.
Pro: Mini-Games, Looks and Sounds Wonderful.
Con: Not Very original, Can Become Repetitive.
Final score: 7.7