Open Season Review
Written : Wednesday, March 12, 2008
By: Joe Otis (GT: OtisFamily)
Most movie-to-game translations tend to be hit or miss (though mainly miss). One could argue that this is primarily because the movies they are based on aren’t that good to begin with. The truth, however, is probably closer to the fact that these games are just made to boost sales and compliment the respective. This “quick game = more money” mindset is what has held back many games that had the chance to be great, and even bring something new to video games in general (Jumper, X-Men, and Pirates of the Caribbean, among countless others). Open Season is closer to the ‘hit’ side of the proverbial fence, utilizing a peek-a-boo gameplay style and funny in-game dialogs nearly identical to the movie.
The plot in the video game is basically the same as its movie. The main character Boog (a grizzly bear) has been nurtured and overprotected his entire life. He has been living in the comfort of a park ranger’s home, where he has been treated almost like a king. Once he runs into Elliot (a deer missing one of his antlers), however, his life changes forever, as he becomes the number one target of the worst hunter of all, Shaw. One event leading to another, Boog ends up being put back into the wild and finds himself distant from all the other animals except Elliot, who remains his friend throughout the ordeal.
While trying to get a feel for the forest life, Boog finds out that open season has begun, and that he and every other animal in the forest is in danger of being hunted. After helping certain animals out, he and Boog gain their trust and, subsequently, their aid in the fight against the hunters. By using these different animals’ abilities, Boog and Elliot are able to ward off all of the hunters except Shaw, where a final battle occurs between him and Boog.
"Oy! Fire at will!"
Sound cheesy? Of course it does. The plot itself isn’t really meant to be taken that seriously, and the hilarious antics and witty lines don’t contribute to the seriousness at all. But that’s what is so good about Open Season: if you’ve got even just a bit of a sense of humor, you’ll be laughing at Martin Lawrence and Ashton Kutcher’s dialogues constantly. The fact that publishers and developers Ubisoft, and Ubisoft Montreal (respectively) have included most of the voice actors from the movie earns them a gold star for thinking about the fans.
While on the topic of Open Season’s audio aspects, it’s important to mention the subtleties that make this game even better. Perhaps the sound you’ll be hearing most often aside from Boog and Elliot’s voices are the hunter’s screams (brought about by scaring them, which is the child-like alternative to mauling them like in real life). Sure, it’s one of the same few different types of screams each time, but the sound itself coupled with the actions of the hunters when frightened further add to OS’ silliness. Other various sounds include the hunters’ gunfire (don’t worry, you only get knocked out after taking damage from these rounds, another factor in keeping the game safe for children), animal sounds, and even some nice background music suiting the levels they are played in. The voice acting is spot-on, primarily because of the use of the voice actors from the movie. The cutscenes that include dialogue between Boog, Elliot, and the other characters are done just like the movie, and the in-game catch phrases and the like are just as funny as the actual lines. Overall, the game’s audio is top-notch when compared to other games directed mainly toward children, as it’s a joy to people of all ages.
In the case of graphics, Open Season is of the same quality when compared to its respective movie. Everything seems to be slightly choppy at points, and not nearly as crisp as it could be. Regardless, the game’s environments are well done along with the characters, which maintain their cartoony qualities, something to be expected having derived from an animated movie. The animations are also decent, but when skipping over portions of dialog, the characters often continue mouthing their words until stopped by the next character’s lines. Not a disappointing part of the game, there is just a good margin of improvement that could have been met.
Boog and Elliot always get the last laugh.
Now we’re back to the gameplay. Open Season has extremely basic controls that are, thankfully, easy enough for anyone to pick up and learn quickly. This is obviously a necessity in family games, but it’s still worth pointing out that Ubisoft did a good job with this. Both Boog and Elliot run with the Right Trigger, yet Elliot is the only one who can jump, making his role in specific levels a vital one. Boog’s primary ability is his roar, which is important in scaring off hunters (though bear hunters are immune to his roar). Another one of Boog’s abilities is that he can throw other animals, and even hunters, at various objects. This comes in handy when facing a large group of hunters, as you can just toss in a skunk to scatter them all. Each animal has their own use: rabbits can jump on hunters’ faces when shot FPS-style; squirrels can be placed in trees to start an aerial barrage of acorns; and later on in the game after buying specific upgrades, Elliot can be thrown to scare off confused hunters.
Being a third person game, camera control is a must when thinking about ease of use. Fortunately, Ubisoft have done a great job using the right thumbstick as a controller for the camera and making sure the camera doesn’t mess up at points. Here they go again thinking about the younger crowd; way to go Ubisoft, way to go.
For the majority of Open Season, you find yourself playing as Boog while Elliot tags along to be used as a projectile for gathering badges, distracting hunters, or just random mischief such as being thrown off a cliff (try it, it’s pretty funny). Once again the audio excellence makes an “appearance,” due to Elliot’s screams when flying through the air. In other parts of the game you play as Elliot, who uses his abilities of running and jumping to reach places normally not accessible if you were forced to play as Boog. Elliot can also taunt hunters, leading them into their own traps to take them down. The good balance of splitting both characters into their own levels is genius on Ubisoft’s part, especially so that you don’t get bored playing the same basic style throughout the game’s entirety.
An interesting thing to be put into this game, the Wild Academy puts to use all of the Wild Points earned throughout the Story Mode, allowing you to buy and upgrade various skills for Boog. Some of these range from a more powerful roar, to being able to throw Elliot in order to scare off hunters. Without buying the latter, Elliot would just attract attention and lure the hunters toward you. Not the best thing to be happening if you’re low on health. Speaking of health, a couple of the skills that can be learned increase your health, so if you find yourself scaring off hunters inefficiently and need an extra bit of back-up, it’s in your best interest to be buying those. Of course, you get much more Wild Points than needed after perfecting all levels, so that along with the achievement for buying everything means you’ll probably end up getting them all anyway.
You don't see this very often.
You’re unlikely to be playing much of the mini-games, due to lack of interest and lack of achievements them, but they are worth looking into if you’ve got the extra time and maybe a friend or two. The games are well balanced, a good amount being free for all and the rest being in teams of two. They all relate to different aspects of the rest of the game, one of which involves throwing rabbits into a hole (a task in the earlier portions of the Story Mode). The inclusion of these was thoughtful on the developers’ parts, but honestly it was a failed attempt to add more play time to the game.
There’s a reason Open Season has made our Easy 1000 list, since you can get most of the achievements in the first time through each level. The achievements are entirely Story Mode related, the majority of which deal with collecting badges or perfecting a specific level. Not only are these tasks easy, but with a decent guide you can easily get the full 1000 in a matter of less than 10 hours. This fact along with the simplicity of the Story Mode, make a replay value that is really Open Season’s only flaw. Sadly this is a major flaw; very few will find this game exciting after the first time through, especially if they have gotten all of the achievements. Of course it’s always worth noting younger age group that OS is targeting. I’m sure this lack of replay value isn’t enough to turn away children as quickly as everyone else, which is what really matters when considering the genre.
The inclusion of the official voice actors along with the various sounds and even the background music makes this a stand-out game in its genre, and are liable to make you laugh every now and then while playing.
Sadly, the graphics are about the same as they are in the movie. The cutscenes and gameplay visuals are about the same quality, yet aren’t as vibrant or smooth as they could have been. Definitely not an important drawback in a children’s game, but it feels like there could have been more effort in this category.
Open Season offers easy-to-learn controls, an enjoyable story mode, and fun mini-games. Sadly the replay value is very low, with only the achievements to keep you coming back. Expect to be finished with the story mode in well under 10 hours, and regardless of its fun factor, don’t expect to be coming back to play it again and again. OS has a slight charm about it, but it’s really nothing that lasts once the story and achievements are out of the way. A rental is the best option in this case.
Overall, Open Season did a great job combining the hilarity of the movie with effective gameplay in order to make a strong game that all ages can enjoy. The menus are easy to navigate (though a language choice menu pops up every time the game is loaded), and there is a good amount of levels to keep you interested all the way through. By making both main characters playable, OS cuts up any monotony found in the story. The addition of collectible badges and use of a Wild Points store where skills can be bought are both nice touches that extend the life of the game, adding just enough extra play time for those perfectionists out there.
For an easy 1000, Open Season has an okay list going for it. By the time you beat the game (and having collected whatever badges you can), you should probably have a majority of the points. There is no balance of easy and hard here, there’s easy, and less easy (in the case of perfecting Snow Blitz). Badge collection and the use of Wild Points, both gained throughout the levels, for achievements is a nice thing to have, but out of all of the 46 achievements OS has to offer, not one is dedicated to the game’s mini-game portion, making it completely unnecessary to play those. Despite a decent list and relatively easy achievements, Open Season lacks one very important thing: replay value. Once this game is fully complete, you’ll have no reason to come back, and that’s a real shame.
As I’ve pointed out numerous times, Open Season’s only true flaw is its lack of replay value. You’ll find the Story Mode interesting the first time, but after that, it’s just about getting the achievements you may have missed at that point. From a one-night stand perspective, Open Season is a great, refreshing game in the company of poor movie-to-game translations, and is an overall treat to fans of the movie and Sony Pictures’ writing and art style, and anyone with a remote sense of humor. Unlike some other easy 1000’s, you’ll actually enjoy this game. Definitely worth a rental, there’s no doubt about that.