Ubisoft has produced a video game based on the Open Season animated film for every active game-playing device under the sun. Although they're all action adventure games patterned after the movie and share some aspects in common, the games are very different from one another in terms of overall execution and quality. One of the more interesting versions is the one produced for Sony's PlayStation Portable handheld. In it, you have to juggle between Boog and Elliot, the two main characters, and use the other animals as makeshift weapons, all while exploring a single massive 3D world and participating in missions assigned by the forest's native animals. The quest isn't long, but it is a satisfying ride that manages to provide a more in-depth look at what happened to Boog and Elliot in the forest.
Just as the movie does, Open Season for the PSP tells the tale of Boog, a tame grizzly bear who ends up partnered with a scrawny deer named Elliot after an unfortunate chain of events leaves the pair stranded in the wilderness far away from Boog's otherwise cushy life in town. Unfortunately, it also happens to be hunting season. To help the duo escape the forest, you have to go on missions for the local animals that involve fetching items, rescuing wayward furries, competing against other animals, and scaring off hunters. Hunters will also attempt to shoot at Boog and Elliot every chance they get.
There's much to do and see while controlling Boog and Elliot. As Boog, you can roar at hunters and pick up other animals and use them as weapons. Squirrels can be used as battering rams, skunks can stun hunters and wilt thorn plants with their spray, ducks can protect Boog from bullets and be thrown like heat-seeking missiles, and beavers function like tiny grenades that cause small earthquakes that stun hunters. The four different animals are plentiful throughout much of the game's 3D world. Elliot, who is always tagging along behind Boog, can also be picked up and used, either as a baseball bat or as a projectile. When Elliot is thrown into certain areas, he becomes the active character. As Elliot, you can jump over obstacles and between platforms that Boog can't navigate, as well as barrel headfirst into hunters and breakable objects, such as fences and gnawed trees. Scaring hunters and accomplishing missions isn't very challenging, since arrows always point out the proper path and running out of health results only in a quick respawn, but the different types of missions and all of the different animals that are readily available keep things from becoming too routine.
Another nice aspect of the game's structure is that all of the different areas of the forest are interconnected into a single massive 3D world. The world consists of six main areas, which are broken down into smaller sections. To get to one area from another, you simply walk there. Missions are initiated by talking to animals situated throughout each area. Exploration and combat also take place in those areas. Roughly half the time, the game forces you to visit certain areas or to take certain missions in a specific order. The rest of the time, you're free to travel to whichever areas you like and take on whatever missions and contests are available. Presenting the game world like this immerses players in the universe of Open Season more deeply than a traditional organization of isolated levels would have.
The world of Open Season looks and sounds pretty good on the PSP. The 3D engine gives some of the PSP's better-looking games a run for their money. Each area has plenty of geographical features and is well stocked with plants, animals, and hunters. Especially attractive are the many rivers and lakes, which are fashioned out of multiple moving translucent layers. Certain key locations from the film are accurately depicted, such as the fishing lodge and Shaw's cabin. Boog and Elliot move fluidly and are nicely detailed. Boog carries a teddy-bear backpack on his back, just like he does at certain points in the movie, and the look on Elliot's face when Boog drags him around by the neck is priceless. There isn't any music to speak of, but there's a healthy variety of whimsical sound effects and atmospheric noises. Conversations between the characters are shown as text rather than spoken by voice actors; however, the story interludes that occur after each batch of missions do employ voice acting. Boog and Elliot also dish out spoken one-liners randomly as they're walking around.
The whole lot of 40-or-so missions should take the average player about six hours to finish. Fans of the movie will probably squeeze a bit more time out of the game by going back and tracking down the collectible items they missed, which unlock a grand total of 40 movie images that can subsequently be viewed from the main menu. There are also four minigames to play, involving CPU opponents or as many as four human participants linked together in close proximity using the system's ad hoc wireless feature. The minigames include a dance-off, a squirrel race, a log-rolling competition, and a contest to see who can toss the most rabbits into a burrow.
Most people will probably be content to play through the game once and put it on the shelf. Nevertheless, Open Season for the PSP is a fun ride while it lasts.