After thoroughly enjoying the Disney film "Bolt" in theaters, I was really surprised to find that the DS version of the licensed game is boring, super repetitive, and pretty much drains away most of the fun that I had with the film. Bolt is an action/platformer of sorts that follows a side-story to the film, but even the idea of a small, super-powered canine wasn't enough to elevant this mundane game into something decent.
For the fans of the film, you'll already have an idea of who the characters are. Bolt is the star, but instead of following the events of the film, you'll take on the acting role for the character and follow Bolt and Penny through various "scenes" or episodes of Bolt's show. It's a pretty good idea that allows for a more liberal use of the abilities that Bolt possesses on TV. However, the skills you're given are really pretty limited, and you'll find that any form of combat in the game results in a simple hit-and-run attack, or you can opt to avoid most of the enemies and continue with a level. Even the boss fights lack any real inspiration, and most encounters you get into are pretty boring.
Additionally, the level design is tepid at best. Each stage is pretty linear, which I don't have much of a problem with, but while platforming sections pop up on occasion, any threat or danger that might result from jumping across chasms is completely taken away in Bolt. You can't fall off a ledge, so there's no need for precise timing or split-second jumps, and you can't even begin to jump unless the game has deemed that you're in the proper place. There's no real sense that you're going to screw up anything, so it's pretty easy to breeze through the majority of levels. Adding to that is the fact that the overall game is really short, falling into the range of a three- to four-hour romp, and you're left with the feeling that you didn't come close to getting your money's worth from what you purchased.
Another issue I have with Bolt, since it's based on an animated feature that already has the voice acting in place, is the fact that there is zero voice acting in the DS iteration. I understand that the DS isn't exactly the best when it comes to overall storage capacity, but you're stuck with static pictures of characters on the top screen and text-only dialogue on the bottom touch-screen to convey the story. It's a pretty bland way of presenting a fairly dynamic license, and it's sure to disappoint even the younger audience for which this game is aiming. There are a couple of cut scenes from the film that pop up, but they're few and far between, and compressed to no end on the small DS screen.
Visually, the game fails to receive any high marks either, and while it does a pretty good job of representing the film characters, the animation isn't the best, and backgrounds looked pretty bland. I'm not sure if this is due to a budget, hardware or time constraint, but I found most of the levels to be pretty bland, and they really didn't do all that great of a job representing the film. The same can be said for the audio, but I wasn't the biggest fan of the film's soundtrack, so that didn't surprise me too much. The original tunes aren't all that bad, but nothing managed to stick with me or leave an impression beyond the initial playthrough.
For younger fans, Bolt will be an easy enough game to get into, and I'm sure it's geared to that crowd more than myself. It's not the best platforming/action game I've played on the DS, and there's no reason why a 5- or 6-year-old couldn't pick up something like New Super Mario Bros. over this, other than the brand recognition. I can see plenty of parents picking up this one for their young ones, and I can see how most of my issues with the game won't be issues for children, but at the same time, I'm sure there are a few adult fans who also have an interest in it, and that's who I'm mostly gearing this review toward. Don't come into this expecting something on the level of a Nintendo-developed action game, or you'll be sorely disappointed.
There are a couple of multiplayer modes to add to the core game, but it requires the use of two copies of the game. One of the modes is a puzzle mini-game that's actually pretty fun, and it is found within the single-player mode. Another mode is a Monkey Ball-style game that has you controlling the hamster character from the movie along different obstacle courses with the stylus. However, the challenge is brought down a notch from other similar titles, and you can't really fall off the stage or anything.
Bolt for the Nintendo DS hardly does enough to keep itself interesting, even through the short amount of time it'll take to see everything that the game has to offer. It lacks any of the energetic feel that the movie had, and while I can see the game appealing to kids, I just don't think it'll be the best option when there are a couple of other titles out there that I'd be more likely to suggest. Even if you're a big fan of the movie, I can't say that's a good enough reason to try out this game. The side-story isn't particularly interesting, and it did nothing to enhance the original film for me, so I'd definitely suggest avoiding this one.
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