You can pretty much count all the good movie licensed video games on one hand, and you probably wouldn't even need a whole hand if talking about just DS titles. Buena Vista Games' Chicken Little: Ace in Action for the DS seemed doomed from the start then, but against all odds the little chicken that could has actually managed to appear in a decent little action game. While it isn't a complete success, Ace in Action does show that licensed games can be made for the DS if a little effort is made.
Aimed squarely at the 7-10-yeard-old market, Ace in Action sees you play as three of the characters that may or may not be familiar to you from the Disney movie, as here they're in their superhero alter egos. So, Chicken Little becomes Ace, the Rambo of the poultry world; Abby Mallard becomes Abby, a movie starlet-esque woman; and Runt of the Litter, a less than cool pig, becomes the meat headed machine gun-toting Runt. Fish out of Water is also along for the ride, but not as a playable character.
With three main characters, the developers thought it wise to give the player three gameplay types, so the game has an even spread of missions for each character. Ace's levels play like an old-skool overhead shooter, with the beefed up chicken able to shoot and throw grenades in multiple directions. It's pretty basic stuff, but works surprisingly well. Sadly, Runt and Abby don't provide the same level of enjoyment.
Runt's sections see him controlling a slow, but heavily armoured and powerful tank. Due to the similar overhead viewpoint these levels end up feeling like less entertaining Ace missions, but they're still more impressive than Abby's space combat levels. It's not that these rather uninspired sections play particularly poorly; they're just completely devoid of fun and are monotonous in the extreme.
Depth probably isn't something that should be looked for in a child-friendly DS title, but there is a small amount of character upgrading, handled by a points system - one point per alien rescued in each mission - and each character has a special attack that can wipe out an entire screen of enemies, but that's about it. Once you've played a level in the shoes of each of the characters you've pretty much seen all the game has to offer.
A fairly simple alien collection multiplayer game for two players offers some fun, but the need for two game cards makes it something that is unlikely to be experienced. A game like this is practically begging for single card multiplayer, but it sadly wasn't to be. Also worth pointing out is how text heavy the game is. The game carries a Pegi rating of 7+, and anyone over this age should be ok with the text, but younger players may struggle to keep up with what's happening in the story.
DS games often shy away from 3D, so Ace in Action should be commended for its fairly impressive visuals. They're probably best described as early PlayStation quality, but they do the job very well. Boss characters are especially well modelled for a DS title, and make the most of the handheld's rather limited 3D capabilities. Sound on the other hand is fairly typical for a DS game, being nothing noteworthy, but totally inoffensive at the same time.
Chicken Little: Ace in Action is a surprisingly competent and occasionally very entertaining little game. The mixture of gameplay styles doesn't work quite as well as it could have, with Ace's levels coming off far better than the other two, but for younger players this offers a fairly gentle introduction to action games. The disappointing multiplayer is perhaps its biggest letdown, but fans of the movie will still find a game that does its best to break free from its movie license roots.