One could easily call Double Fine Happy Action Theater a collection of mini-games. But they would be wrong. Theater is much more and much less than that. It is a collection of augmented-reality activities. Much like the camera based games on PS3, 3DS and iOS, Theater has you interacting with objects onscreen as if they were in the physical space you are occupying. I called them activities because there is no scoring or no winning. There are really no objectives at all, but I can honestly say that I haven’t had this much fun with a 360, much less the Kinect, in a long time.
There are 18 “activities” within Theater. Like I said, this isn’t a mini-game collection, because in mini-game have goals. In Theater, there are none. These activities range from popping balloons to dancing to crushing buildings. In the balloon activity, balloons fall onscreen and fill the room around you. Then you pop them and get prizes like top hats or cookies or bananas. Yeah, that’s the kind of game this is, it’s nuts. The dancing activity places you in a psychedelic dance club then proceeds to wiggle and jiggle your onscreen self to the music. The building crushing game (one of my favorites) has you playing the role of a Godzilla-like monster trampling buildings and swatting planes.
I’m not going to run through all of the activities because I think discovering what’s inside is a huge part of Theater’s fun. When the game starts, it starts in what is called Director’s Mode and rotates through all of the activities. This is a great way to familiarize yourself with the activities as you only spend a few minutes with each activity before the game auto-cycles to the next. This is also a great way to experience the game with friends. If you want to play an activity for longer, simply go to the main menu and choose from the entire list there.
There’s not a whole lot going on in the graphics department. The game sports a cartoonish style. It’s nothing over the top and almost barely noticeable, not because the graphics are bad, but because they are completely in service to the gameplay. And here, gameplay is the most important thing.
Scratch that, fun is the most important thing. As I mentioned, there is no scoring in Happy Action Theater, there is no winning, there is no point to any of the games, save one thing. You have one goal that is to have fun. Also, this game has the greatest achievement ever and it has to do with lava. It’s awesome.
Now, I don’t imagine that you’re going to be having much fun playing this by yourself. This is a party game if ever there was one. Half the fun is seeing other people act crazy, which makes it great for kids or adults and teens ready to act like kids.
Happy Action Theater is more of a gadget or a tech demo than a game. But it’s a great example of what the Kinect can do. It’s obvious that the technology is a long way from being perfect or even serviceable in a “hardcore” game but it’s fun. It is by no means a reason to buy a Kinect, but if you have a Kinect and at least one friend to play this with, you NEED to own this game. And this is the only Kinect game I can say that about.
Jonathan is the host of the DarkCast, DarkCast Interviews, and Gamers Read. He loves books, video games, and superheroes. If he had to pick favorites, they would be Welcome to the Monkey House, Mass Effect, and Superman respectively.