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Open Season

Special to Globe and Mail Update

  • Reviewed on: Xbox 360
  • Also available for: PS2, Xbox, GameCube PSP, DS, GBA, PC

  • The Good: Stays true to characters complete with Hollywood voice actors. Simple learning curve that is good for all ages. Great minigames that change things up a bit.
  • The Bad: Dialogue is unusually empty and passionless. Fetch-and-retrieve missions dominate gameplay for too long. Very short at five or six hours. Visuals are not as good as they could be for the console.
  • The Verdict: A movie tie-in that has no hook.

Video games based on movies have a negative stigma attached to them, regardless of whether they stick to the same basic plot of the film or if they deviate and break new story ground.

Animated movies such as Open Season are a bit different in that the expectations are never as high as they are for, say, games like X-Men or The Godfather. This could be a good thing because the video game iteration falls short most of the time.

A bear named Boog

In Open Season, the main character is a big grizzly bear named Boog who happens to be a domesticated pet of Park Ranger Beth. Boog's gentle nature and tame existence is thrown out of whack when he meets Elliot, a clumsy fast-talking deer who's missing more than just an antler.

The two of you are banished into the wild after breaking into the local town's convenience store to eat all the chocolate bars inside. From the wilderness, you have to find your way back to civilization, which involves making both friends and enemies.

Boog's skill set is the focal point of the gameplay because everything pretty much runs through him. At any time, you can grab Elliot and throw him to pick up coins in the distance or to distract hostile animals and humans.

The humans are actually hunters who are out and about now that it's open season, so in order for you to get by them, you need to scare the wits out of them. This involves disguising yourself, throwing animals to draw attention away from you and eventually to just outright running after them.

Go fetch this, go fetch that

For your skills to improve you have to finish all the mini-missions in a given level. This usually follows a formula of fetch and retrieve. For example, a skunk couple in the wilderness are hostile to you at first, but you can win them over by helping them find their missing babies and bringing them back.

Initially, this seems like a pretty fun exercise because it can be funny at the same time. Except the problem is that the "fetch and retrieve" formula begins to take a repetitive tone. From level to level, Boog's skills improve, but the complexity of the missions doesn't really change to match the increased capabilities.

The last few levels start to deviate from this path and give you a more exciting experience, mainly because you have to be creative in using all of your attributes, rather than just roaring and throwing things. But by that time, it's too late, and it would take patience to get to that point without feeling like you're watching a replay.

Little side minigames during the course of the main story help break things up a bit, with a real highlight being the Mine Race. It's too bad that you couldn't view this from a first-person perspective because it has all the makings of a crazy rollercoaster, except that you need to move onto different tracks at different times to stay alive.

Was that supposed to be funny?

Unlike the witty banter that movie pundits have spoken so highly of from the film's script, it seems that little of that was taken for the game. Even with all the big name voice actors like Martin Lawrence (Boog) and Ashton Kutcher (Elliot), the voice acting lacks humour and comes off as being mundane.

The cutscene visuals don't help matters much, either. Instead of having cinematics to show us what's happening, the view is shown from the first-person perspective of Boog and Elliot. This isn't a bad idea but the sub par dialogue makes it look even worse than it is. There's no sense of urgency in a lot of the things that are happening, with the notable exception of actual gameplay dialogue (i.e. during the Mine Race).

Missing the mark

It's unfortunate that Open Season falls flat in the key aspects because it had the potential to be an entertaining game. With better dialogue and more interesting missions this would be a very different experience, and it would be a very worthy tie-in to the movie.

But as is, there's not much here to keep you occupied and you can only do the same thing over and over again.

Recommend this article? 26 votes

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