Double Fine is at it again, bringing another kid-friendly Kinect title to the younger generation of gamers. Happy Action Theater makes a playground out of your living room for up to six players, letting them melt like the Terminator in hot lava or join a dance party with some of Double Fine’s beloved characters.
It’s difficult to say that Happy Action Theater is an actual “game.” Well, at least not in the way we traditionally think of a game. There is no way to fail, no extra lives, and no goal besides just having fun. It’s like a funhouse mirror where all the enjoyment comes from seeing yourself altered and transformed. All that is required of you is to interact with whatever is on screen as you see fit.
The game is split up into 18 different activities that change a room’s environment similar to how the PlayStation’s EyeToy games work. Most of the activities show an image of the player and the room they are standing in as seen by the Kinect, then add interactive elements. A few of our favorite examples: plants grow around the room when you toss seeds, snow collects on your couch, and bouncing rubber balls fill the room, ready to be kicked around or smashed. Other activities do things like place your image on a platform in space where you can shoot fireballs and magic spells at chubby flying demons, or control a round of a Galaga-style game with your body. There is a good diversity between the activities and discovering how you can interact with them is where Happy Action Theater shines.
Some of the minigames, however, work better than others. The cloning machine which makes copies of the player’s poses, for instance, often displayed missing sections of our body. A few activities even feel like they are copies of others, only with a different background… though thatwould do little to dissuade a child from enjoying each one.
The activities and the way you interact with the Kinect are very simple. Kick towards a miniature building and it collapses with ease, or fling an arm toward the screen and snowballs fly and smash against the glass. Typically, there are only a few ways to interact with the environment in each activity, so sticking to one for too long may get boring.
Luckily, the game also includes a Director mode which automatically changes activities every few minutes - absolutely no menu input is required once it is on. This option makes the game perfect to have on in the background of a birthday party or get-together where a bunch of kids would be running around. It simply gets rid of the complicated interface and lets kids just have fun playing the game.
Happy Action Theater is a great game for children with plenty of variety in almost every activity – each being different and exciting both visually and interactively. Although the entirety of the game can literally be seen in an hour or two, young gamers are sure to want to revisit their favorite version of their transformed room again and again, and at 800 Microsoft Points ($10), it’s well worth it.