I think they forgot to put the “Happy" in the game.
Happy Feet is a game based on the recent animated movie of the same name. Starring a penguin with an uncharacteristically bad singing voice, but an amazing dancing talent, the game takes players through events in the movie, beginning with the birth of the penguin, Mumble.
The game is broken up into short mini-game segments, each of which ties in with an event from the movie. Gameplay consists of three basic mini-game types: dancing, swimming, and belly sledding. Between the gaming segments, the story progresses through fully voiced cut scenes. The graphics work is acceptable for a previous generation console, but animations, particularly when the baby penguins talk, are sometimes spastic, and transitions are choppy.
Dancing is nearly identical to Dance Dance Revolution in that the four directional arrows scroll up in various sequences matching the rhythm of the music. Players move the Wii Remote like a baton in the specified direction as the arrows pass by. Alternatively, the D-pad on the Wii Remote may be used. Unlike DDR, there are no ratings given to each step, and detection is pretty lenient. Directional motion with the Wii Remote tends to trigger more than one arrow at a time. Also, since you can only move in one direction at a time, there are no instances of pairs of arrows. I was hoping to be able to plug a dance pad in to play this type of mini-game, but the game sadly does not support GameCube control whatsoever. There are three difficulty modes, but none offers any real challenge.
The second gameplay type is swimming. Sometimes featuring a collection task and at other times requiring checkpoint clearance, the basic goal is the same: collect items or pass checkpoints as quickly as possible. The Remote is held in steering position and can be tilted left, right, forward, or backward, in order to direct Mumble in the proper direction. Again, the D-pad may be used instead.
The final mini-game type is belly sledding. This mode controls similarly to swimming, though mostly restricted to two dimensions. Players must race Mumble down an icy mountain, sometimes collecting items. Additionally, the 2 button is used to jump over obstacles. Unfortunately, these three types of games simply repeat over and over with little variation.
The game starts off pretty fun, but it dulls quickly once you realize that you’ve seen pretty much everything there is to see within the game after a few minutes. Each stage has three levels of medal that can be obtained by meeting particular performance criteria. Gold medals unlock animations. The problem is that the game is so easy, gold medals are nearly guaranteed on any stage the first time through.
While the use of the Wii Remote is pretty good within the game itself, outside of the game things are not designed as well. Menu navigation is performed solely with the D-pad and buttons, which feels odd after coming from the Wii main menu.
A two player “Family" mode is included, which is activated upon detection of two active Wii Remotes. Any of the three types of games may be played by two players. I thought trying to control two player dancing might be more fun, but each player gets identical sets of arrows, so there is no added challenge. Furthermore, the mini-game likely to yield the most multiplayer fun, racing, actually only allows a single player to race, while the second player must bash roadblocks out of the way by completing arrow sequences. At least the swimming mini-games sport two-player competitive play.
Happy Feet is a game clearly targeted at children. Young children may enjoy the game, particularly if they enjoyed the movie. However, the overall experience is shallow. Nothing is really broken about Happy Feet; it simply gets old quickly. The game would have been much better suited if it had been designed as an actual dancing game. More diversity in game modes or a semblance of challenge would have made this game feel like something more than just going through the motions.