Cute penguins and dance segments similar to those found in Konami's Dance Dance Revolution are the high points of this game that's based on an animated movie.
- Good mix of platforming, swimming, sledding, and dancing tasks
- Dance segments incorporate actual song recordings
- Story and characters are cute.
- Graphics and audio in side-scrolling areas are not up to the same standard as what's in the dance segments
- Gameplay is easy and a little too straightforward
- Story mode takes only a couple of hours to finish.
Like any decent movie tie-in, Happy Feet for the Game Boy Advance depicts a number of scenes from the animated film it's based on. You can relive young Mumble's first efforts to tap dance and his numerous attempts to woo Gloria, and you can take him out into the world to seek out the "aliens" that are stealing all of Antarctica's fish. The game isn't lengthy or challenging, but it does incorporate a varied mix of activities. Traditional run-and-jump levels are mashed together with underwater swimming and downhill sledding segments, as well as some downright impressive dance challenges that feature popular song recordings and involve pattern matching similar to what Konami has done in the Dance Dance Revolution series.
The platforming, swimming, and sledding segments are the typical side-scrolling stuff you'll find in any movie tie-in on the GBA. In the platforming areas, you have to help Mumble fetch items for the other penguins by jumping between platforms, ducking into hidey-holes, and bouncing skyward off the tops of floating jellyfish. Also situated throughout these areas are the other penguins and animals you need to talk to in order to swim, sled, or show off Mumble's tap skills. The swimming segments bear a striking resemblance to Sega's old Ecco the Dolphin games. You can make Mumble swim, turn around, and dash using the directional pad and buttons. The idea is to dodge predators and gulp air bubbles while seeking out the fish that the animals up top have asked you to gather. For the sledding segments, you have to move Mumble up and down and leap over hazards while he slides on his belly down a constantly scrolling obstacle course.
Far and away, the tap dancing segments are the game's most engaging aspect. In them, you have to help Mumble perform a dance routine by tapping the indicated buttons and directions as they scroll up the screen. The developers put the most resources into these segments, and it shows. Mumble's image on the right side of the screen is large and wonderfully animated. He shimmies and poses in response to every input and shows off a wide range of dance moves. More impressive than the large penguin sprite is the fact that all of the accompanying songs are full-length recordings complete with lyrics. There are only five songs in the entire game, but they're the actual tracks from the movie soundtrack. Fans of the movie will appreciate these dance segments, since they really are a clever way of duplicating the dance scenes that took place in the movie.
Even though the dance segments look and sound nice, the graphics and audio in the other side-scrolling areas merely get the job done. The backgrounds are plain and employ dreary shades of white, blue, and black that, while appropriate to the Antarctic setting, don't make for much eye candy. There are some nice haze and bubble effects in the underwater areas, at least. Mumble and the other penguins are cute and look similar to their movie counterparts, but they're also tiny and don't do much except waddle and hop. It's also a shame that the music and sound effects in these areas are the generic sort of video game stuff we've heard countless times before, as opposed to the songs in the dance segments, which were taken from the movie itself.
For the most part, the game does a good job of mixing up the various tasks, though they do start to feel repetitive after a while. It isn't because the tasks aren't interesting. It's just that they're not all that challenging. Mumble can't be hurt in the platforming areas, and you really have to go out of your way to run out of health or time doing the other tasks. However, the repetition is short-lived, because the main story mode takes only a couple of hours to finish. Given the young age of the intended target audience, the easygoing difficulty level and brief quest are probably appropriate. Outside of the main story mode, there's also a free play mode, which lets you pick and choose any of the individual swimming, sledding, and tap dance challenges. The tap dance challenges are certainly enjoyable enough to warrant going through more than once.
Although it isn't lengthy or challenging, Happy Feet for the GBA is a decent movie tie-in that should satisfy the youngsters it's geared toward. The penguins look cute, there's a good variety of things to do, and the tap dance segments totally capture the atmosphere of the movie.