Dance, stop and clap your way through this fun, if flawed, penguin adventure.
Penguins have been just as common in video games as they have been in feature film animation. From the penguins in Super Mario 64 to the various penguin appearances throughout Konami's games, the little guys are just too quirky and adorable, lending themselves greatly to many movies and video games. Warner Bros. Interactive knows this and decide to adapt the movie Happy Feet 2 as a video game. Despite some redundancy and pacing problems, the game is a pretty good take on the musical animated film.
Happy Feet 2 stars Mumble, the star of the original movie. Years have passed since he saved the penguins from starvation through the power of dance, and he is now the father of a young penguin named Erik. Unfortunately, Erik lacks the dancing finesse his father has, thus starting a journey of self-discovery where he must find his true talent, while Mumble and Ramon follow him. The video game version of the story is told through still frames of key scenes of plot and character development. While the absence of full motion video and clips from the movie is unfortunate, the painted stills do a good job of elaborating the story in a stylish manner. The video game, however, does spoil some key scenes of the movie, so keep that in mind before picking the game up.
Happy Feet 2 is an odd mix of adventure game ideas combined with rhythm gameplay and even some Pikmin stylings. Playing as both Mumble and Ramon, the main objective is to complete chapters based on the film's plot, each containing seven to ten levels. A great chunk of the gameplay is dedicated to exploring levels with the purpose of finding and collecting penguins. Before you can exit a level you must collect a set number of penguins. To do this, you dance in front of them in a brief rhythm mini-game. Other challenges in the levels include solving some simple puzzles, using your penguin troop to scare away enemies, and collecting musical notes that unlock songs.
Part of the gameplay is also dedicated to penguin races in which Mumble and Ramon race down an icy slope avoiding icicles and collecting musical notes. Finally, at the end of the chapter lies a boss battle. These are in the form of musical challenges in which players hit the directions on the D-pad in rhythm to the song. Despite the adventure levels being the main focus, the additional level challenges serve as a nice diversion. The inclusion of rhythm gameplay in-between the adventure levels adds a level of authenticity to the overall title, keeping the charming appeal of the Happy Feet series alive and well.
In terms of design, these levels present a few flaws such as glitches and poor pacing. The adventure levels take a while to complete, and the penguins move awfully slow, making the game at times a chore to play. It also doesn't help that the gameplay tends to repeat itself after a while, featuring the same objectives over and over again. It's a shame, as the overall game has been well designed and presents a lot of fun moments due to the inclusion of music as a main component. The other problem behind Happy Feet 2 is that it is too easy for the experienced gamer. For the target audience of children and families, this shouldn't be a problem as it allows them to enjoy the game without being too intimidated by its challenges, but for older players, levels can be easily beaten in an effortless manner.
Visually, Happy Feet 2 looks surprisingly good for a licensed title. The levels are large and very detailed, featuring everything from the sun setting in the horizon to hundreds of penguins dancing in the background. The main characters, such as Mumble, Ramon, Erik and more, greatly resemble their motion picture counterparts, adding yet another layer of familiarity to the game for fans to enjoy. But it's the music that stands out as the game's best asset. The soundtrack features an eclectic selection of original songs inspired by the movie, from Latin pop to dance and hip hop. How the soundtrack is presented, however, is what makes it shine.
Before you start a level, you are asked to pick a song. The song will then have various levels of progress. At level one, the music is at its core melody, but when you collect more and more musical notes, the song starts to feature bass and vocals for a fuller presentation. This concept is very clever, and even though it is mainly optional and not integral to the concepts behind gameplay, its inclusion in the game is greatly appreciated.
In conclusion, Happy Feet 2 is a game that tries to stand above the typical licensed game fare, and for the most part it succeeds. The inclusion of rhythm gameplay and the varied soundtrack makes it an effort that stays true to the lively spirit of the feature films, but its slow pace and repetitious nature keeps it from being a truly great title. Regardless, if you loved the movies this is worth checking out for a brief period of time.