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Disney's Chicken Little: Ace in Action
Score: 80%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Buena Vista
Developer: Avalanche Software
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Action/ Shooter/ Third Person Shooter

Graphics & Sound:
Typically, movie-licensed games are as welcome as Mel Gibson at a Bar Mitzvah, but some still manage to provide a fun experience. Chicken Little: Ace in Action is a surprisingly solid game that kids, and maybe a few older players, will enjoy.

Ace in Action looks better than I expected. Everything fits the style of the movie and goes beyond what is typical for this type of game. Levels are big and show noticeable signs of wear and tear; after blowing up something, the billowing smoke can be seen from across the map. I was also impressed by the little touches made to animations, such as when Runtís tank pops into hover mode.

As odd as it sounds, one of the main reasons I signed on to review Ace in Action was because of Adam West. Whatever the reason, thereís something about the man that I find amusing. Really, I couldnít think of anyone better to pull off Aceís square-jawed, William Shatner meets Zapp Brannigan tone better than him. It also helps that the script is well written and filled with great, though overly repeated, one-liners. Zach Braff, Joan Cusack and Steve Zahn also reprise their roles from the film.


Gameplay:
Chicken Little: Ace in Action is impressive on two levels. Not only is it a fun game, but it gets mileage from a property that wasnít all that great to begin with.

Ace in Action is the prequel to the movie loosely based on the events seen in Chicken Little. Confused? Well, just wait until you hear the gameís plot. Rather than playing as Ace and his crew as they chase down Foxy Loxy, you control Chicken Little and his friends as they control the characters in the game. So you are playing a game based on a movie playing as the characters who are playing a game that is the prequel to a movie that is loosely based on events that happened to their lives. Got a headache yet? Donít worry, it all translates into a good game in the end.

Though you are technically controlling Ace, Runt and Abby throughout the game, it cleverly sells the idea that youíre Chicken Little and friends instead. As you play through levels, youíll not only hear comments from the in-game characters, but Chicken Little and his friends will also comment on what is going on in the game. Some of the comments are simple cheers of jubilation, but there are some genuinely funny moments. Some of the best lines come from Abby, who continually pokes fun at traditional gaming conventions like weapons conveniently floating in the middle of nowhere. At one point, an entire cut scene is skipped because Chicken Little isnít interested in the story, he just wants to blow stuff upÖ and that he does.

Gameplay is split equally between Ace, Abby and Runt, each with their own play types. When playing as Ace, youíll play through third-person levels reminiscent of Ratchet & Clank, only with fewer gadgets and less charm. Abby has access to a hovercraft and Runt drives a tank. Of the three, Ace and Abbyís levels are the more entertaining, though all three tend to become repetitive. Levels are very straightforward and usually have you repeating the same actions. Earlier levels donít suffer from as much repetition as latter ones, making them more enjoyable.

Between levels, you can purchase upgrades for all three characters using ďacorniumĒ which you collect during levels and by completing bonus tasks. Upgrades include better shields and more powerful weapons. Upgrades are pricey, so expect to run through levels multiple times or hit all of the bonus objectives if you want to max out all three characters.

Acornium is also used to purchase two-player games where you battle for points in either the hovercraft or tank. Compared to other games, the two-player modes arenít that deep or exciting, but they work for younger kids and are easy enough that even non-gamer parents can sit down and play along.


Difficulty:
Chicken Little: Ace in Action is balanced for younger players, but has a few challenging moments that will trip up a few experienced players. Health packs are plentiful and always around. Most will even respawn in the same area, so if you find yourself in trouble you can always fall back to the nearest health pack.

Some of the gameís trickier moments involve endless enemy respawns, boss battles or the camera catching at a bad angle. The first two can be overcome with practice, though the last is simply left to dumb luck. On the plus side, camera issues usually only happen when Ace is walking up the side of a wall.

Enemy A.I. is not the smartest and only reacts when you are within a specific range, so it is easy to take potshots from a distance without the threat of retaliation. To compensate, enemies attack in groups and usually pack lots of firepower. Some, like hovering drones, can do damage if they explode near Ace. It should come as no surprise that these are usually the enemies that constantly respawn.


Game Mechanics:
Of the three characters, Aceís control scheme is the easiest to master. Both Runt and Abby are playable, though their control schemes could stand some fine-tuning. Runtís tank is slow and harder to control than the other two characters. It takes time to learn how to properly maneuver through obstacles and even then, it never feels right. The same goes for Abby, but to a lesser extent. Her control issues stem from poorly implemented up and down movement. The layout of the shoulder buttons feels wrong and not intuitive to gameplay.

While playing as Ace, youíll also encounter a few puzzle elements that quickly became one of my most hated parts of the game. Once again borrowing from Ratchet & Clank, some panels require you playing through a mini-game to unlock. You control a gun in the middle of a circular panel surrounded by locks. The object is to hit the colored locks with the matching shots from the gun. Every few seconds the locks move, revealing a different color. To further complicate things, you also have to fend off antibodies.

Controlling the gun is a pain since it overcompensates for even the slightest of movements. On top of this, antibodies take several hits to kill and regenerate quickly, so you spend just as much time killing them as you do trying to get the locks open. Iím not opposed to these types of mini-games, but when they are as slow and complicated as this one, they only ruin the rest of the game.

Although it has its shortcomings, Chicken Little: Ace in Action is a good game, especially for younger players. The game is even fun enough that older players might want to make a weekend rental out of it.


-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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