|System: DS, X360, PS3, Wii, PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Avalanche Software||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Disney Interactive||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Nov. 18, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Tony Capri
Disneys latest animated, holiday movie offering, starring the wonder dog, Bolt, hit theaters this past weekend, and trailing behind are a host of cross-platform, tie-in games to get those cash registers ringing. The DS game puts you in control of both Bolt and his owner, Penny, and youll travel to various places around the world in this 3D, third-person action adventure.
In the movie, Bolt is canine actor who plays a super hero on TV. However, he one day gets accidentally shipped off across country and has to make his way back home. The DS game, though, is based on the made-up TV show from the movie, and you and Penny will be tasked with chasing after the evil Mr. Calico who has kidnapped Pennys dad and is attempting to rain down a storm of missiles upon the Earth.
The game is broken up into a collection of missions, and youll take turns playing as Penny and Bolt. Bolt is super strong, has a sonic bark that can incapacitate enemies, and he can shoot lasers from his eyes. Pennys more of the brains of the operation, though shes armed with a stick (motorized wheel bar) she can use both as a weapon and a means to traverse ledges and tall buildings.
Control of the two characters is executed with the buttons, with the exception of various mini-games and special attacks, which are relegated to the touch screen. Each character can jump and attack, as well as utilize a special ability unique to each character. When you defeat enemies, they drop energy bits your characters can use to improve three main abilities: damage, armor, and energy expense/wheel-bar speed (each character has a different third ability). Every few times you increase a characters abilities, the character will level up and gain a new fighting combo. Both Penny and Bolt start out with a Y-Y-Y combo, and each of the other combos is merely a three-tap variation of the X and Y buttons.
The leveling system is actually pretty cool, and it should offer incentive for young players to stay and fight whenever the opportunity presents itself. In practice, however, the first combo is not only all youll ever need, its the most viable attack for each character. The character movement is quite jerky, and lining up with enemies in order to attack is never a smooth process. Most attack combos take precision input to execute, though the input is greatly out of sync with the actions your character performs. Combat ultimately feels clumsy throughout the entire adventure, and its unfortunate, since its such a large part of Bolt DS.
Another element that plays a prominent role in the game is Pennys ability to hack computers and other devices. Youll play through a simple mini-game that requires you to link numbers and shapes in order as they appear on the top screen. Its a timed event, but it offers little challenge. Bolt also has his own special ability, one that allows him to cut through objects with his laser vision. Piercing objects consists of a micro-game where you simply trace an outline on the touch screen. Its also simple in the extreme, though the screen-sensitivity setting often causes your input to be misread.
Levels are an odd amalgam of well-designed challenges and mindless romps through over-simplified environments. Often youll need to navigate basic platforms and puzzles, fight off a few baddies, and open a pathway for your partner; other times youll be required to merely run from one end of a room to the other in order to receive the mission complete screen. Enemies usually approach one at a time, though occasionally youll go up against as many as three. When surrounded, however, you can tap on your character to execute a special attack. For Penny, she does a circular kick that will throw back enemies, and Bolts special makes him invincible. Bad guys, however, usually just sit there and take their pounding with little resistance.
The games level of difficulty never really ramps up, but as a whole, its still fairly balanced, considering the young gamers Bolt DS is likely aimed at. However, poor combat, unfocused level design, and a generally ho-hum adventure still leave much to be desired in the gameplay department, regardless of who the game is meant for.