The controls are, as I mentioned, rather complex, especially for a DS game. Chicken Little's alter-ego, Ace, has a blaster as his primary weapon. This blaster fires in 8 different directions, and you have to use all 8, using the A, B, Y, and X buttons, combining two of them together to fire on the diagnol. This is where I start to run into trouble. I'm just not fast enough to move and fire at the same time, and that's required. Ace can also dodge the lasers being fired at him by double tapping the key on the directional pad, with him doing a dodge and roll in the direction you double tap. The left and right buttons on the back of the DS are used for special abilities. Each time I play I feel like my fingers have to be moving in ten different directions all at once. Thankfully the game doesn't make use of the stylus as well, or I'd be having to figure out how to hold that in one hand while tapping buttons with another. As you make your way through the level, you collect equipment along the way such as shields, grenades and power-ups for ammo. There's much to keep track of, but I usually just blast my way through the level using whatever I've collected as soon as I can. You'll also encounter little alien beings that restore your energy, and of course, health restore spots.
So what is the point of playing the game, the storyline? Well, saving the world, of course. Ace, Abby, Runt and Mr. Fish (my favorite character of the bunch), are saving the world, no, the very universe, from the evil Foxy Loxy and Goosey Loosey. You're traveling through the solar system trying to get to Earth before Foxy Loxy and Goosey Loosey do and take over. The game starts with a very well done tutorial. Mr. Fish teaches you how to shoot, move, and what each of the controls for the game do. And after he's done explaining, you immediately have to do what he just told you about before you move on. Once the tutorial is done, you're still on the planet Venus, trying to make your way to your spaceship. You'll have to use all the different moves Mr. Fish just taught you, but thankfully along the way there are little save points so you don't have to redo the whole area when Ace dies. And, in my case at least, he dies often.
I like the little cut scenes in between levels. There's exciting music playing in the background as you read the dialogue between the characters. The scenes remind me of those old time movies where everyone had to overact in order to convey the emotion of the scene because there was no voice. And, of course, how could you not chuckle when Mr. Fish reminds you that you have an egg torpedo to launch at Foxy Loxy? The story starts out with you doing battle against Foxy Loxy and Goosey Loosey, but something goes horribly wrong. The words “We're hosed” flash on the screen, and suddenly the barn shaped spaceship is being pulled through a “temporal anomalily” sending the ship forward in time, in orbit around the planet Venus. Mr. Fish's scans show that there are large amounts of metal on the planet, and that organic life forms are inside the metallic robots powering them. Ace and his team head down to the surface to investigate, and you're off on your training mission.
The control scheme itself is not all that difficult to learn, but a challenge for me to execute well. The X/A/B/Y buttons are how you fire, as I said. You move using the left keypad. The L button on the back of the DS is your shield, which can be kept up as long as you have power for it. You regnerate this power over time or by collecting Fizzles. Most of the action takes place on the top screen, with your radar and any messages from Mr. Fish showing up on the bottom screen. Hold in the R button on the back and you fire off grenades, but keep in mind that these will also have a “splash radius” and you can harm poor Ace if he's too close when the grenade goes off. Oh, and you're limited in how many grenades you have in each mission, with only 8 to start and a few that can be picked up along the way. So there is some strategy involved in when to use what weapon. But to be honest, what I've done to get through the parts of the game that I've played is to just hold down the blast button and try to move as fast as I can.
One of the problems I have with the game is that the save points that allow me to turn off the game and leave are few and far between. It took me hours, and many many tries, just to get through the first mission. Granted inside each mission there are “checkpoints” than when Ace is defeated, you just go back to them. But many of these checkpoints leave you in a VERY bad situation immediately after respawning. And when you do respawn, everything around you that you'd already cleared is there too. You can't even back up to an area that you'd previously cleared and start moving forward again. This has made for a lot of frustration for both myself and for my son. So much that it took the two of us “tag teaming” the game just to get through the first mission. We'd play for half an hour, pause the game, and hand the DS off to the other person. We'd make some progress, but not enough to get to an actual save point where we could turn off the DS and come back to the game later. Oh, and don't think that just because you cleared an area that it is safe behind you, either. There are many points even in the first level where you run across a spawn point and enemies will pop all around you. To give you an idea of what I mean, as I sat down to write this review, I decided to try a new game just to remember what we had to go through. About four checkpoints in, I'm making my way through a particularly tough area. I'd used my shields as much as possible, collected any Frizzle I found, but still died. When Ace respawned, there were two robot creatures and a laser turret right on the screen in a triangle around him, and if I moved in either direction to try to get where I could fire at them all at once, I'd have even more enemies around him. By some miracle, and many tries later, my fingers finally memorized the combination of keys I had to mash to get out of that safely and could move on. Only to go around a corner a few moments later and have three large robot creatures spawn in front of me, two behind me, and two laser turrets also firing at me. This was, quite literally for Ace, overkill on the enemy's part.
Now I know there are many who would find this sort of challenge fun. They'd want to learn to master all the keys, the different combinations, memorize what each icon meant and when to hit them, all that sort of thing. But for me, and for my 11 year old son, fun is not the word we've used to describe the game. Frustrating ranks right up there as the word choice instead. I suspect that the storyline is really cute, and I'd like to be able to get to know what it is. But to be honest, after multiple, and I'm talking at least six, hours of being stuck on the first level, I just don't see myself as picking up the game often enough to really find out. My son might over time, but he's got a bigger sense of “I can't let a game beat me” than I do. I'm willing to accept that this game just isn't for me and leave it to those with better dexterity than I have.
The “glory days” of computer gaming for me were when games like Spectre Supreme, Pirate’s Gold, the Might and Magic series, the original Prince of Persia… those sorts of games were coming out on a regular basis. Back then I owned a Macintosh and was a die hard Mac fan. I was one of the first in my area to buy an iMac and on it learned the joy of playing games on the internet like daily crossword puzzle and “mind bender” type puzzles. My first online RPG was given to me for Christmas the year EQ was released, and I was hooked from day one. I played EQ for about a year. I started playing DaoC during late alpha testing, and was hooked on it.. well, to be honest I still am. I’ve tried pretty much every MMORPG I can get my hands on, from big names like EQ, to more obscure ones such as Underlight. I’ve been writing for IMGS since the first DaoC guide, and find I love the challenge of learning a game and presenting what I’ve learned (and sometimes my opinions), to other players.
I’m not a very strong player as far as learning PvE or quick reaction times, so I tend to stay away from games where I’m pitted against someone else in a way that requires physical (rather than mental) response. I still enjoy story and puzzle games, and in a way that’s how I still approach online games. I would much rather spend hours working through a quest than 5 minutes in combat against another player. I still get lost in simulation type games, obsessing over them until I’ve gotten them beaten. And I like being able to sit down at the computer when I’ve got less than half an hour and playing through a few levels of a puzzle game. I tend not to like first-person shooter type games, or anything with person to person violence, so I steer away from them unless they are fantasy based settings. All in all, I enjoy computer gaming so much that my life feels incomplete somehow when my computer is down.