Happy Action Theater

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Happy Action Theater Game Poster Image
Hodgepodge of physical Kinect games makes families giggle.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

This game encourages players to engage in healthy physical activity. It also creates an opportunity for positive multiplayer experiences, with up to six people simultaneously interacting with game elements and each other.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Aside from simplistic bugs and aliens, there aren’t really any characters in the game. Players will look to their friends and family playing with them to learn how to perform certain activities, but there is little that could meaningfully translate to the real world.

Ease of Play

There are no objectives. There is no scoring. There is no failing. Players simply experiment with whatever appears onscreen in each activity. A fictional audience claps after every performance. Players will have fun batting around balloons and manipulating psychedelic colors with their arms.

Violence & Scariness

One activity has players pretending they are monsters striking planes, blimps, and UFOs from the sky while crushing buildings on the ground. No people are shown getting hurt. Players can also throw fireballs at each other to turn their onscreen images to ash, toss energy balls at floating monsters, shoot bug-like invaders in a retro-style game setting, and pummel the feathers off of virtual birds.

Language
Consumerism

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Happy Action Theater is a collection of simple activities for Xbox 360 Kinect designed with intent to appeal to all ages. It has some mild fantasy violence that involves players tossing fireballs at each other and destroying helicopters and planes, but it is mild and far removed from the real world. Still, it could prove scary to very young players. It offers neither verbal nor written instructions on how to interact with the birds, fireworks, balloons, and other objects shown onscreen, but instead forces players to move their bodies in different ways to experiment with its virtual elements. It’s a moderately physical experience, with players standing, squatting, dancing, and waving their arms to alter the virtual objects they encounter.

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What's it about?

Less a game and more of a tech demo, HAPPY ACTION THEATER delivers 18 random activities that get players of all ages up and moving. You’ll bat balloons around, control sparklers with your hands, get frozen in place in a blizzard, swim around a sea of lava, try to eat a piece of pizza off a fishing lure under the sea, play with a flock of birds, dance in place to create wild, kaleidoscopic images, and more. Players aren’t provided any instructions, and there aren’t any explicit objectives -- though sometimes you’ll earn an unexpected achievement for a random action (we earned the “Oh, the humanity!” achievement for striking a blimp in a little game that had players pretending to be the stars of a monster movie). You can cycle through all of the activities at random or choose the ones you want to try from the main menu. You can try them all in a single, relatively short session.

Is it any good?

There’s not a lot of lasting value in this hodgepodge of random activities, but it's fun while it lasts. We found plenty of laughs while performing with friends and families in the same room; and experimenting with the elements that appear onscreen can be fun and rewarding. For example, after failing to accomplish much of anything while moving around in a virtual snowstorm, one of our young testers decided to stand still. Snow slowly began to collect on her body, and her image eventually turned blue and froze stiff. She swung her arms up and the ice suddenly shattered. She was thrilled with this discovery and continued to experiment.

It’s not the sort of experience that will keep players coming back day after day, but it’s an entertaining activity to turn on for a group of kids for half an hour once in a while. It can also be a fun way to show your grownup friends what Kinect can do during a social gathering. We just wish it cost a little less. $10 seems a little steep for what you get.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about making active video games a part of their healthy lifestyle. What games have you played that left you feeling as though you just had a workout? Do you think games can count as exercise?

  • Families can also discuss the idea of experimental play. This game’s makers suggest that it is suitable for ages 2 through 99. What do you think? How about the violence? Which age group would get the most out of it, physically and mentally?

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Themes & Topics

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