The titular character of Opoona is a feisty sort. He reads fortunes, goes fishing, and delivers room-service orders, all at the behest of a bureaucratic planetary government that apparently doesn't heed universal child-labor standards. Yet the portly, round-headed tot keeps a smile on his face the entire time (well, except when he runs). This cheerfulness trickles into every aspect of Opoona, from its clean, vibrant visual design to some wacky, badly translated dialogue that proclaims things such as "You've won acceptably." And that's a very good thing, because though Opoona himself may approach the endlessly mundane tasks with gentle good humor, you won't be inclined to tackle the constant red tape with the same enthusiasm. Without its colorful charm, this role-playing game's aimless wandering, shallow story, and other minor annoyances would be hard to forgive. Yet like that spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down, the game's adorable presentation makes it easier to stomach the bitter shortcomings.
In Opoona, you spend more time wandering around than you do fighting monsters.
Opoona is from the planet of Tizia, where everyone resembles an old Fisher-Price action figure. He and his family are en route to their vacation destination when a mysterious incident causes them to crash-land on planet Landroll. Opoona is taken in by the kindly and efficient Landrollians, who put him to work as a ranger as he searches for his brother Copoona and sister Poleena. There's a little bit of intrigue and a little bit of emotion scattered throughout the journey, but for the most part, the tale is a sweet, chewy morsel: superficial and insubstantial, but too well-meaning to out-and-out dislike. Every character and every bit of dialogue is supercute, which makes the game sound nauseating, but wacky characters and interesting locales make it just quirky enough to keep it from getting annoying. Or, to lift a bit of dialogue from the game itself, it's more like a heart cookie playing the ukulele in the evening than it is a mound of white chocolate that is too big for just one person to eat.
Thus the stage is set for the most amusing and alarming trek through governmental red tape since your last visit to the DMV. To progress, you must upgrade your ranger license and earn other licenses by performing various tasks, from fighting evil flatscreen televisions to vacuuming in a cafe. You'll spend a lot of time in Landroll's domed habitats, applying for licenses, searching for mission targets, and wandering aimlessly while trying to figure out what to do next. The domes are expansive, with wide-open areas and multiple towers that must be traversed through a web of elevators. It's all unnecessarily spacious, which makes it easy to get lost, and the in-game map (called a GPS here, which is as accurate as calling a fast-food burger patty a filet mignon) is no help at all. There are no mission waypoints, and the job descriptions are so vague that you'll be stuck from time to time, speaking with every non-player character and checking out every nook until you trigger the next task. Opoona, with its simple story and sleek, colorful visual design, is obviously aimed at younger players. Yet there's nothing friendly about navigating its various corridors and wide-open spaces, and the frequent mistranslations (What do you mean, go to the elevator on the left? There is no elevator to the left!) and vague instructions may cause many youngsters--and adults, for that matter--to give up.
Fortunately, things pick up once you leave the domes behind and engage in actual combat. Battles in Opoona are usually random, but they are simple and fun, and they highlight the game's unusual, minimalist control scheme. There are a few options available, but the best (and default) control setup is to use only the Nunchuk. All you need is a single analog stick and two buttons, and you have it made. This can lead to some fussy, fumbling moments, such as when you want to rotate the camera or switch targets in battle, but the one-handed controls work rather well. However, you may find the classic controller more to your liking, given that the unnecessary Wii Remote might get in your way if you go the Nunchuk route. Either way, you'll attack your enemies by pushing the stick in any direction and releasing it, at which point the party member you control will fling his or her bon-bon at the target. What, pray tell, is a bon-bon? It's a floating ball that each sibling possesses (though in an ironic twist, sister Poleena has two of them). Bon-bons can be enhanced in a variety of ways, from the ability to cut through multiple enemies in one toss to adding lightning damage to your standard attack.