Look at me, I’m a jelly!
As I stood within what can only be described as a giant jelly, I wondered what on earth I was doing. I moved slightly and, on the screen, the jelly that was encasing me wobbled in a very pleasing way. I began deliberately moving around in an attempt to make the jelly wobble even more. After only a matter of minutes, the jelly disappeared and another game began.
But it didn’t matter, because I was already sold. Double Fine’s Happy Action Theater, which is available from XBLA for 800MSPoints, is a collection of 18 utterly pointless games that make use of Kinect. When I say that they are utterly pointless, I mean that they have no real cohesion, there is nothing linking them together, and that there is no real competitive edge to be found, either against an AI or another player. What I don’t mean is that there is no point in playing them, because all of the games offer pure, unadulterated fun. They also make quite impressive use of the Kinect’s capabilities and they look pretty cool too.
Double Fine Happy Action Theater is probably the furthest away from what most gamers consider a video game that you can get. In many ways, it seems more like a tech demo, the kind that are often displayed at trade shows to get people excited about a new technology. But this doesn’t stop Double Fine’s latest masterpiece from being incredibly fun for younger gamers, or those young at heart.
The mini-games take the players image and insert it into a variety of different situations. One minute the player may find themselves encased in a giant jelly, as previously described. The next moment they will be zipping around the screen in a UFO, firing different coloured fireballs at devils. Or they may find themselves being frozen solid, only to move slightly and watch the ice shatter. They might even find themselves stomping around a miniature city, like some kind of Godzilla creature, crushing skyscrapers and flapping their arms at aeroplanes. The whole thing is very surreal.
But it is the variety of these games and they ways in which they incorporate the player that will make Happy Action Theater so popular with the younger gamers out there. From the moment you start the game up, it automatically launches into “Director Mode” which basically gives the player a couple of minutes with a game before moving onto the next. Using a controller, or simply sticking out the left arm in what has become a common Kinect method for reaching the menu, the player can access and choose to play whichever game they wish. But the fact that the game can just be turned on and left with the little ones certainly works in its favour.
Up to six players can join in with any of the games, be it balloon-popping or lava-splashing, and again ease of use has been implemented. There is no fluffing around with menus or signing in when a new player walks in front of the screen. Just the fact that they are there means that they are in the game.
As a distraction, even the more mature gamers will get their money’s worth from this title. It is not going to swallow up hours of gaming time, but it will become one of those guilty pleasures that just needs to be played with when they want some quick, easy fun.
Although Double Fine Happy Action Theater is aimed at children and is more like a tech demo than a real video game, the whole package screams fun. How much fun you get from it will entirely be down to how grown up you think you are…