Happy Feet, the video game, is available on Sony's PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube, Nintendo Wii, Game Boy Advance, Windows PC, and Nintendo DS. In all versions, kids control Mumble, and relive the story of the movie, but the Nintendo DS versions offers the most innovative dance mechanics, so we are reviewing that version here.
Unlike his fellow penguins who have a "heart song" to woo a mate, Mumble can't sing. Instead Mumble finds expresses himself through his tapping "happy feet." The elders of his penguin colony can't accept that he dances instead of singing, and irrationally conclude that his dancing is responsible for their dwindling fish supply. Mumble leaves home on a quest to find the "aliens" that are destroying the penguins' food supply.
In Happy Feet, kids relive the movie through a series of pictures and text. Interspersed with the storytelling are 23 missions. The missions take two formats: dancing or belly-sliding.
In the dancing missions, kids help Mumble tap dance by hitting colored dots that appear on the lower touch-sensitive screen. Each dot is accompanied by a larger timing circle that shrinks until it surrounds the colored dot. At the moment when the timing circle touches the outline of the dot, kids try to "tap" the dot with their stylus to earn points. The timing usually corresponds to the beat of a funky song that accompanies each mission.
Mumble's belly-sliding missions are shown from a camera angle of just over Mumble's shoulder. As he slides down mountains of snow and ice, the player controls his navigation with the stylus or by using the multi-directional keypad. The object is to avoid obstacles, while trying to navigate through checkpoints and collecting items. Some missions measure success in terms of time on the course, while others require you to pick up a certain number of items. The sliding courses get progressively harder and more visually exciting, including sliding through long ramps of ice on which banking at the right angle is important.
The 23 missions are engaging and fun if you like downhill racing and rhythm challenges. The dancing missions are particularly appealing, and use similar timing mechanics as those found in the highly-rated Elite Beat Agents. All the missions can be replayed for a better score, or played with a friend in multi-player mode if both own a copy of the game. If racing and rhythm aren't your child's passion, pass this one by.
Happy Feet is an "E"-rated title that will provide Mumble fans with a charming diversion. You might want to rent this one instead of buying it.
All tech products are judged on a five star scale by looking at the following factors: fun, education, ease of use, value, and technical.