Open Season was a mediocre adventure game on the GameCube, and it's even worse on the Wii thanks to the cruddy controls and higher price tag.
- Boog eventually gains a good variety of skills and weapons.
- Game is nearly over by the time you have access to all of Boog's abilities
- Too many inane fetch quests
- Motion-sensing controls are sluggish and inaccurate
- Graphics and audio lack flair and don't push the hardware at all
- Wii version costs more than the GameCube version does, but doesn't look any better or include any additional content.
Since the Wii system architecture is similar to the GameCube's, it makes sense that publishers would try to capitalize on the Wii launch period by quickly porting some of their recent GameCube games to the new console. That's what Ubisoft has done with Open Season. It has taken the GameCube game, which was a flimsily produced 3D adventure based on the Open Season computer animated film, and put it onto a Wii disc without making any significant improvements. The controls in the Wii version do take advantage of the system's motion-sensitive controller, but that's hardly worth paying an extra 20 dollars for, especially since these new motion controls feel exceedingly tacked-on to a game that simply wasn't designed for such a scheme.
The main play mode is the single-player adventure mode, where you have to work through 25 third-person levels, each involving one of the two main characters. Depending on how the level is designed, you control either Boog or Elliot. Boog is the protagonist of the story, a tame grizzly bear who has found himself stranded in the woods because of an unfortunate chain of events. Elliot, meanwhile, is a blowhard young deer, Boog's newfound friend, and, unfortunately for Boog, the catalyst for the pair's exile to the woods. To make their way back to town, Boog and Elliot must travel through the different parts of the forest, enlist the other animals for help, and use Boog's wild abilities to scare off all of the hunters who have come to participate in the newly opened hunting season. In the majority of levels, you'll find yourself fetching items for the other animals while scaring off hunters, which generally involves roaring at them or tossing rabbits and skunks in their direction. Some levels also incorporate thrill-ride sequences involving makeshift cannons or sprints down a mountain in contraptions such as a mine cart or a raft made from an outhouse.
While it sounds like there's a lot to do in the game, the harsh reality is that the abundant fetch quests all feel the same, and the portions involving the hunters rarely welcome the use of the many skills that take so much time to gain access to. Being sent to collect things, like grubs for a mama skunk or a beaver's lunchbox, is fine when you're asked to do so on occasion, but the game is loaded with similarly dull fetch quests. Successfully completing these errands lets Boog pick up and toss animals at the hunters. Skunks can be lobbed at hunters and into houses to stink up the joint, squirrels can be thrown into trees or atop hunters' heads to function as nut-throwing turrets, and rabbits turn into kicking facehuggers when thrown in hunters' faces. The animals also eventually teach Boog how to sniff for treats, swim, and steamroll over hunters. Once you have access to all of Boog's skills and weapons, the game really gets going. Unfortunately, by that point, the quest is nearly over. The first 20 levels tend to focus on isolated abilities or emphasize the use of the sneak and roar abilities. It's only the last four or five levels that incorporate everything.
Another negative mark, one that's specifically against the Wii version, is that the game forces you to wave and tilt the controller, or point its infrared sensor at the screen, to perform a number of actions. Walking and running are done with the analog thumbstick and the buttons on the Nunchuk attachment. Everything else is handled by waving, tilting, or pointing the Wii Remote. To pick up something or to do a quick throw, you have to wave the controller forward. To perform a more precise throw, you tap the B button, aim the cursor by pointing the remote at the screen, and then press A to toss the object. To cover up with twigs and hide, you tilt the Wii Remote and Nunchuk in opposite directions. During the thrill-ride stages, you turn the Wii Remote sideways and tilt it left or right to steer. All of these Wii-specific control enhancements seem novel at first, but they wear thin after a while. On top of that, they often don't work like they should. The game is slow to respond to tilt motions and button inputs, and the aiming cursor will frequently ignore your attempts to move it, sometimes sending the camera into a brief spin. In the thrill-ride stages, there's also the additional matter of the tilt sensitivity being jacked up. When you make the slightest movement, Boog gets thrown to the side of the screen. That's a big problem, particularly in the downhill snowball slalom where you absolutely need to make precise movements to stay on the narrow path and avoid the trees and drop-offs that whiz by. Incredibly, the development team neglected to provide any options for adjusting the tilt sensitivity or for reconfiguring the controls to use a traditional pad-and-button layout. The dodgy controls make the already-tedious game even less fun to play.
Wii owners can't even take solace in the graphics and audio, which were modest on the GameCube to begin with and haven't been upgraded one bit on the Wii. The characters resemble their film counterparts and look decent, but they're not what you'd call lively. Some of the taunts that Boog and Elliot perform are amusing. Otherwise, they and the other characters go through their limited range of animations matter-of-factly, without showing much personality. There's also not a whole lot of detail evident in the environment. The levels are large, but you'll rarely see anything that catches your eye apart from a random cabin or waterfall. At the same time, the polygon count and textures are on the low end for what the hardware is capable of. So, while the individual blades of grass on the ground are a sweet touch, all of the trees, boulders, and rock faces that make up the major share of the surrounding environment look angular and plain.
As for the accompanying audio, it gets the job done without much fanfare. Background atmosphere comes mainly from the ambient forest noise. The only time music plays is when Boog is spotted or when you're in the menus. Sound effects are suitably upbeat and include a decent selection of vocal comments. Meanwhile, the voice performances turned in by the soundalike actors hired to mimic Martin Lawrence, Ashton Kutcher, and the other film actors generally lack passion and make you want to skip through the dialogue scenes that appear every so often.
Going through the adventure mode will take most people about four hours. Individual levels can be played over and over again, but since the game is generally a snoozer, there's not much incentive to do so. Bonus features include a library of animal facts, concept art, and movie stills, as well as seven competitive minigames that can be played against the CPU or against as many as four friends using multiple controllers. The tasks in the minigames involve things like rolling logs, chucking rabbits into a goal, and picking flowers. They're good for a few minutes of play here and there, but they're not engaging enough to make you feel as if you got your money's worth out of the game.
When it was released for the GameCube, Open Season was already walking that fine line between mediocrity and being total junk. Now, Ubisoft has published the same game for the Wii, has saddled it with inferior controls, and is asking 20 dollars more for it. That's a high premium to pay for a movie cash-in that wasn't much good to begin with.