Chicken Little: Ace in Action Hands-On
This chicken's not so little anymore. We take a close look at the second game based on Disney's film.
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Chicken Little, Walt Disney's first completely computer-animated kid's film, was a somewhat surprising hit when it was released late last year. Like most every other kid-friendly film, it spawned a video game adaptation for multiple platforms, which was developed by Avalanche Software. Now, a year later, and in the absence of any feature film follow-up to Chicken Little, Avalanche is preparing a spin-off game of its own design for release.
Chicken Little: Ace in Action has an intriguing premise. At the end of the Chicken Little film (which revolved around the titular hero's battle against aliens that are attempting to drop the sky), the young characters sat in a theater and watched a Hollywood-esque film adaptation of their adventures, in which the diminutive Chicken Little was transformed into a bulky spaceship captain. (If you recall the ending of Pee-wee's Big Adventure, then you'll have an idea of what we're referring to.) The game itself isn't a sequel to Chicken Little the movie; instead, it tells the story of "Ace" Chicken and the rest of the characters inside the movie-within-a-movie.
To add another layer of complication to the proceedings, the game uses a framing device in most of the cutscenes wherein Chicken Little and friends actually play the video game. You'll watch Chicken, Runt, Abby, and Fish as they gather around the console and get their often-humorous takes on the goings-on of their fictional counterparts. It might sound contrived, but in general it's a clever way to break down the fourth wall a bit and allow for some odd commentary on video game clichés. The fact that Zach Braff, Joan Cusack, and Adam West all reprise their voice roles also helps sell the cutscenes, as does the persistent tone of Star Trek and Star Wars parody that seems to be well done from what we've seen.
The game itself is more action-oriented than you might expect. It possesses three distinct styles of gameplay. In it, you can control Ace Chicken, a supermodel version of Abby, or a hulking Runt. Each character has particular levels to run through, with distinct challenges for each.
Ace, being the star of the show, often leaves his ship and embarks on ground missions, with nothing but a trusty laser gun and a jetpack. Combat plays out much like in your standard action-oriented platform game, but Avalanche has gone out of its way to make most of the environment destructible. Blowing stuff up is fun, but it's also worthwhile, since it'll earn you more acornium, which is some kind of acorn-based futuristic currency. With it, you'll be able to upgrade both of Ace's weapons (he also packs a rocket launcher) up to four times each and also buy a few unique gadgets for him.
Both Abby and Runt also benefit from acornium, as they each possess a number of possible upgrades to their vehicles. Abby is responsible for the space and airborne sections of the game; in the level we played through, she piloted a nifty-looking spaceship that she took into the clouds of a planet as she attempted to protect Ace's mothership from alien assault. These aren't just shoot-everything-that-moves missions, though, as you'll be given different tasks to complete; in this instance, we had to shoot down ships, as well as destroy the hangars that they're launched from, and also use our mine-clearing gadget to push a series of floating mines from the path of the mothership.
Runt also gets his own vehicle to play around with, in the form of a massive tank that's useful for clearing out enemy fortresses. In addition to having normal treads, which are useful for scooting over ground, the tank can revert into a hovering mode, allowing it to glide across water--or even toasty lava--without risk.
Ace in Action should provide plenty of action for fans of Chicken Little, with 24 levels of mayhem spread across all three characters. There will also be six multiplayer maps to try out and ship-versus-ship and tank-versus-tank action. Ace in Action is currently slated to ship for both the PlayStation 2 and the Nintendo Wii in November, so stay tuned to GameSpot for more information.
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