Chicken Little Review

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Graphics: 8.0
Sound : 8.0
Gameplay : 3.5
Multiplayer : 5.0
Overall : 4.5
Review by Alex Bowden
Chickens – those simple, feathered morons with no sense of direction. In my experience, attempting to persuade a chicken to go where you want it to is akin to pushing string – an ultimately futile exercise. Fortunately for us, Chicken Little is the star of a Disney film and as such, he is sentient, maneuverable and he can talk. He is also small and unpopular, making him the classic underdog hero, if you’ll excuse the confusion of species.

This game follows the storyline of the film, and indeed many of the cut-scenes are lifted from it. The cut-scenes are actually one of the high points in this title, starring actors from the film such as Zach Braff, Joan Cusack, Steve Zahn and Garry Marshall. Through these scenes we learn that Chicken Little is ill-regarded in town, ridiculed by townsfolk for the time he thought the sky was falling down, when in fact he had merely been hit on the head by an acorn. As you progress, it becomes apparent that he now has to rescue the town’s inhabitants from aliens. That’s pretty much it.

So what form does the game take? The answer is that it takes many forms. No two consecutive levels maintain the same style of gameplay, so while the game starts with Chicken Little leaping around on platforms in typical game fashion, the following level hurtles you down a corridor, evading obstacles in your path. After that, you’re playing dodgeball. I think the idea is that you will never become bored as the game is forever throwing something new at you. In practice, it feels skittish and disconnected. It also seems that the quality of gameplay has been divided between each different segment. While each seems satisfactory on the surface, there isn’t really a great deal to offer in most of them.

The most common game style in Chicken Little is a 3D platform affair. These sections offer the most freedom as you run and jump around the landscape, although the path through the level is always abundantly clear. Chicken Little has several skills that he can use within these sections. He has a yo-yo which can be used to attack small clockwork doppelgangers that approach him with ill-intent. He can also use his yo-yo as a grappling hook or to swing from. This sounds promising, but unfortunately you can only employ these skills at certain spots which are clearly marked with giant arrows. As a result of this, if you see a giant arrow, you know for certain that you will need to use it, removing any sense of exploration.

As this is a platform game, Chicken Little can also jump. In addition to this, he can also perform a ‘double jump’ which amounts to a vague extra bit of distance on what is only the most perfunctory of hops. This was a particular gripe for me. On several occasions I would be following the glaringly clear path through the level and there would be a certain gap that needed crossing. I would attempt to jump it, but it would appear that I wasn’t going to make it. At this point, I would jump again, in mid-air, for the double jump. Frequently, I would misjudge and would actually be landing at my destination as I attempted my second jump. Chicken Little would then jump again, inevitably into some abyss. I would then groan and attempt to climb back up to where I had come from.

Indeed, the main thrust of gameplay in these sections is to get somewhere high up via a series of well-executed leaps. There’s no puzzle element, no real thinking to be done, just trial and error. Another factor to overcome when executing these jumps is the camera, which you can move around, but does get stuck against solid objects. The easiest way to jump accurately is with a straight-ahead, focus and when possible I would rotate the camera angle so that I could do this. However, if you are jumping away from a wall, you can’t do this as the camera won’t pass through the wall, forcing you to run and leap at an angle. This doesn’t happen to often, but there are times when it makes life difficult.

The second most common style of gameplay depicts Chicken Little or one of his friends sliding along something or down a tube, avoiding obstacles. Occasionally, you can shoot. You can usually jump, but this is very simple gaming. What I would liken these segments to is a tiny hand-held LCD game I had when I was about six. In truth it was closer to a digital watch than a game. It was a racing game, and on the screen there were three painted lanes. Within these lanes cars approached and you avoided them. All you really had to do was be in the empty lane when the obstacle cars were at their nearest. I soon got bored of it, and accordingly I soon got bored of these sections in Chicken Little because they are essentially the same.

The first such level, going down a school corridor in a pail, even offers the same quantity of lanes – three. You can jump, but that doesn’t really affect the gameplay much. Later on, you’ll slide down a tube in a spaceship, but whether you’re dodging fire or filing cabinets, it’s all the same. The only notable difference is the fact that you can travel 360 degrees around the tube due to the lack of gravity, but obstacles still only occur in four different places; left, right, top or bottom. In an early variation on these sections, you have to run back down the corridor you had previously slid down in the pail. This section is particularly irritating as you run towards the camera and can’t see where you’re going.

There are several levels where you use a space simulator. I don’t particularly know why it was necessary to shoe-horn these segments in. These too harken back to a bygone age of gaming, the 2D scrolling shoot ’em up—basically, fire your weapons and avoid hitting things. There are power ups to nab, but there were so many things onscreen at times and I was so unfamiliar with what is just one segment of a larger game, that I didn’t know what to collect and what to avoid. As with so many of the levels, when I finished, I didn’t feel a sense of triumph. I felt a sense of relief that I wouldn’t have to do it again.

There are yet more sections of the game with yet more styles of gameplay, but none offer anything more than shallow enjoyment. Sometimes you must drive a vehicle. These parts boil down to ‘drive here, then here’ or ‘drive here quite quickly, then here.’ There are times when you utilize an Alien Walker, there is a section where you fire a cannon, and there is a baseball section. The baseball segment deserves a quick mention. We all know that most games are essentially about pressing the right button at the right time. It’s how you dress this up that counts and how you involve the player. The baseball level in Chicken Little literally involves pressing the right button at the right time and no more. The various PS2 pad symbols scroll across the screen and you must press them in time to the music. If you get enough right and then time the final button press, you will hit the ball.

A mite more fun can be gleaned through attempting to collect full sets of cards to unlock multiplayer mini-games. There is at least a little bit of strategy and exploration involved in acquiring each of the cards within the platform component, but not a great deal, and the mini-games themselves are just faint twists on the flat gameplay elsewhere.

You could say that this is a children’s game, but I think children will see through the Disney gloss just as quickly. It is also recommended for children over ten, not just toddlers, yet every part of this game offers ample opportunities for irritation and few chances for satisfaction. Because you always know what you’ve got to do, it’s just a matter of putting it into practice, and there is no sense of triumph at a level conquered. While the cut-scenes are impeccable and the acting up to movie standard, the gameplay is hollow and isn’t at all engrossing. Chicken Little, the game, should never have been hatched.