REVIEW – Double Fine Happy Action Theater (XBLA)

Effortless Fun

Double Fine Happy Action Theater isn’t so much a game as it is more of a glorified tech demo but it will undoubtedly bring out a childlike entertainment quality that is rarely found in games today.

Anyone of any age can immediately hop into Happy Action Theater.  With no menus, no log-ins, no instructions, and no way to really win or lose, the goal is to just basically have fun doing ridiculous things.  This simple concept has positive results.

There are almost 20 activities to participate in. From popping virtual balloons, to growing a virtual garden by dropping seeds from your hands, to demolishing a virtual black and white city, to lighting fireworks, to having your entire living room fill with lava, the game is not short of creativity.  There is even a version of BrickBreaker and a Space Invader style shooter that keeps track of high scores.  However, some segments are not as entertaining as others, like the psychedelic 70’s kaleidoscope which is little more than an interactive screen saver.  But if your living room is big enough, up to 6 players can participate in the lighthearted mayhem and accidentally smacking your friend with flailing arms is just part of the fun.

Just like Stacking, Trenched, Once Upon A Monster, and Costume Quest, this title has quite a personality.  From the early 1920’s newspaper delivery boys, to the old school Director, to the upbeat soundtrack, Happy Action Theater is really something to experience.  If the mini games won’t make you laugh, than the interactive dancing scrolling credits mini game will.  Through the magic of Kinect, the sensor can make you dance even when you are not moving.  It is actually something you need to see and experience for yourself to truly understand.  This moment is made even more memorable as other Double Fine characters join in on the fun.

My only gripe with Happy Action Theater is the strong demand for depth of field.  My living room has just about 7 feet of space but many games really require a solid 8 feet, so smaller Kinect rooms beware.  However, this really isn’t a flaw as the designers made great work of using a 3D space; players will just need to accommodate as best they can. Also, manually selecting activities isn’t as accurate as other games.  Holding your hand over the mini game you want might take some time getting used to.  And despite having many activities to participate in, there really isn’t a whole lot of staying power once you play through each activity a couple of times.  However, the few hours that you will spend playing through each activity could be some of the most physical fun you have had in quite a while.

Of all the Kinect titles that I played, I actually had the most fun playing Happy Action Theater.  This is kind of ironic because it really isn’t a game; it is just a fun tool to play around with.  The carefree atmosphere is perfect for anyone to immediately take part in and can act as a great new party game.  This $10 title works so well with Kinect it should be a pack-in with every sensor that is sold.

8/10

Simple But Fun

Funner Than: any Mario Party

Also Try: indie Kinect hacks

Wait For It: Happy Action Theater DLC

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