Children have no problem making their own fun. Give them a few outdated toys, a handful of couch cushions, or a backyard, and a child will use their imagination as the catalyst to somehow create something entertaining for themselves. This is an ability that’s likely lost on most people as they age, but Double Fine Happy Action Theater is a quick and enjoyable return to form.
DFHAT is a composition of 18 scenarios, the vast majority of which impose no goal or direction on the player. The game simply provides a setting and lets the player make their own fun. Smashing a city and swatting at helicopters a la King Kong, or feeding and subsequently scaring a group of pigeons is surprisingly cathartic when you aren’t prodded to do these things; rather, you do them because you can.
It’s immediately clear that while developing DFHAT, Double Fine made sure to place an emphasis on accommodating the way kids would play it. DFHAT has no menus that are necessary to play the game; each situation starts as soon as the last one ends, and they cycle endlessly. There is no drop in/drop out process to go through; players can join and quit DFHAT seamlessly and the game does a great job acclimating accordingly. Lastly, each scenario only carries on for a few minutes, which is probably on par with the attention span of most children.
While the functionality of DFHAT is tailored to children, it doesn’t mean that the game is made exclusively for them. Adults will be able to find enjoyment in each of the scenarios at least a couple of times through, and it certainly works better as a party game than a solo endeavor. However, it seems that adding young ones to the equation will make for exponentially more opportunities to replay the game.
Ultimately, it’s near impossible to provide a review for a game that doesn’t strive to be a game. DFHAT quite competently puts all the pieces in place for players to have fun, but it’s up to the players to make something of those pieces. So, in lieu of a collection of deep statements about where the developer succeeded or failed, all I can really offer is that I had fun while playing DFHAT, which must mean that I was doing something right.