Not as cute as puppy breath.
Sometimes, a game comes along that makes players question everything they ever thought about games. It revolutionizes its genre, pushes the envelope beyond previous confines, and expands the limits of the human mind in ways that few might have ever thought possible.
[image1]The DS version of Bolt does for “kid’s games” what T.J. Hooker did for cop drama: absolutely no effect at all whatsoever. But somehow, it’s mildly entertaining, if only because of what’s completely wrong with it.
Let’s start with the packaging. The back cover shows Bolt and Penny (otherwise known as “that girl that hangs out with Bolt”) posing for the camera in traditional superhero fashion, with Bolt standing proud and Penny riding on an “extreme” scooter, enjoying, presumably, her “extremeness”. And at the very bottom of that picture, the words “Scooter not in game” appear, trying to blend into the orange background.
There are two things wrong with that statement and that picture. First, why advertise what isn’t in the game? Isn’t that mostly what little kids determine their sophisticated game purchasing mentality on? And second, Penny’s main weapon in the game is a rod, big enough to hold onto and stand on, to be the bottom-end of her scooter, complete with wheels on either side. So… she doesn’t have a scooter, but she has a scooter? Are you just trying to mess with us, Disney?
[image2]But I digress. For a game that on first assumption was supposed true 3D platforming, it’s disappointing that it plays more like a pretty version of Double Dragon. You can move around the environment in 3D, but the actual tasks and levels are about as multi-dimensional as those in a Crash Bandicoot game. You can move back and forth, up and down, but ultimately you’re only moving either to the left or to the right.
The fighting is about as basic as can be, because supposedly a game designed for kids can’t have any interesting combos or attacks. Though you can play as two characters, there aren’t many interesting moves to try out. Even trying to combine attacks is a “learned” experience (by way of the most basic leveling-up system I’ve ever seen – beat up bad guys, collect, and add to attributes), instead of a more basic “button mash bunches” mechanic.
The bad guys are about as dumb as could be; about halfway through the game, I decided to just avoid fighting altogether. None of their attacks did anything remotely near lethal, so even when I did take damage as I ran through baddies, I could destroy a box and find a health pack… and BAM!, back to full health. The nonexistant A.I. is sad, because with the abilities Bolt does have, a few boss battles would have been intimidating and exciting, or both. But instead, it’s just hit-till-their-dead and a general lack of creativity.
[image3]There are puzzles dotted along the path for both characters, but those apes pulling out ants with sticks on the Discovery Channel could have figured them out without a second thought. I was hoping, if anything, that there could be some fun to be had with the stylus, but instead all that exists is one sad “puzzle” for each character: connect the dots and the ever-intimidating “stay inside the lines”. Which begs the question… does Disney even try anymore?
In the end, for what it is, Bolt simply feels unfinished. It almost seems like the developers could have put in some extra months to put in an extra idea or two, instead of leaving this as almost a slightly-bland beta. The enemies simply appear out of nowhere, the fights are uninteresting, the puzzles are uninspired, the graphics look like something from an early PS1 Pixar title. My inner nine-year-old would only stick with this through about fifteen minutes on Christmas morning.
You know that complicated "some assembly required" toy the grown-ups have to set up, and twenty minutes later the kids are having more fun with the box than their actual gift? This is that toy… just a smaller box.