You probably aren't surprised to learn that the Game Boy Advance rendition of Open Season is a side-scrolling action game. What may surprise you, however, is that this game is some kind of crazy "Metal Slug meets Mario" hybrid, where hunters are constantly showering you with hatchets and bullets as you jump and climb over things and where you're attacking these same hunters with weaponized rabbits and beavers that function more like baseball bats and grenades than cute furry animals. It's fast paced, it's bizarre, and it's actually a good deal of fun.
You have to jump and climb over things while dodging hunters and angry wildlife.
The game is loosely based on the computer-animated film of the same name. You have to help Boog, a city-dwelling grizzly bear, make his way through a forest filled with hunters and wild animals so that he can return to his cushy home in the city. This journey has been distilled onto the GBA as six side-scrolling levels, each consisting of multiple sections filled with the aforementioned hunters and animals, as well as a boss battle at the end.
Thematically, the game has a vibe akin to side-scrolling shooters like Contra or Metal Slug, in spite of the fact that the characters and story come from a family-friendly animated movie. The levels have the usual assortment of gaps and platforms, but there are also many alternate paths and hideaways to discover. Candy bars, which let you buy upgrades to Boog's abilities, are hidden everywhere and give you incentive to seek out these secret spots. There's never a slow moment, thanks to all of the hunters and cranky animals that are constantly assailing Boog with nuts and bullets. Boog is a versatile bear, though, and can handle anything the levels dish out. You can jump, duck, and roll past most hazards and use Boog's claws to climb nearly every vertical surface in the game. Boog can roar at enemies to stun them and smack them with his backpack to scare them off, but his real arsenal consists of all the animals he can pick up and use as weapons. Rabbits, squirrels, beavers, ducks, and skunks can be picked up and swung around like clubs or thrown as projectiles. Each has its own wacky use. Ducks, for example, fly toward enemies like heat-seeking missiles, whereas skunks function more like grenades in that they explode into a puff of green stink.
Similar thought and care went into the graphics and audio. The backgrounds are diverse and rich with color, and they make use of multiple scrolling layers to lend a sense of depth to the otherwise two-dimensional scenery. Some levels incorporate neat little visual effects, such as moving clouds, transparent water, and falling rain. The characters are large and colorful and have a wide variety of animations. When you free Reilly the beaver from a trap, he fires up his chainsaw and cuts a doorway out of any trees that are blocking your path. Furthermore, all of the different animations and transitions between them are so smooth and seamless that the characters look more like cartoon animals than video game sprites. If there's any negative to the graphics, it's that there are only so many animals and hunters in the game, so you'll end up seeing the same objects countless times in each level--not that it's a huge negative, since you'll usually be too busy dodging bullets to care that you've come across the same hunter three times in a row. The story itself is told through a series of comic-book-style cinematic scenes brought to life with animated facial expressions and floating speech bubbles.