Genre: 3D Platformer/ Stealth Action
Developer: Avalanche Software
Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios
Release Date: 11/17/08
It’s tough reviewing something from Disney while living in the mouse ear Gestapo state of Florida. If you criticize anything dealing with Walt and his beloved company you’ll get someone shouting at you about how wrong you are. Having said that, I cannot in good conscious suggest that you even attempt to play a game as eye explodingly bad as Disney’s Bolt. Bolt is an awful game from top to bottom. Furthermore, in this holiday season there are so many better ways to spend your time and money even if you’re buying this for a child. Games like Wario: Shake It, Little Big Planet, Banjo Kazooie Nuts and Bolts, and a host of other games are excellent E rated games that provide similar experiences. If you want to read why Bolt sucks then go right ahead, I appreciate it, but you know this game was going to be horrible far before I wrote this review. This game is not worth a rental, let alone a purchase. Bolt is pure consumerism at its worst.
For those of you familiar with the movie Bolt, the game takes place in the TV series that our protagonists, Bolt and Penny, star in. The game is the generic mad scientist has kidnapped your dad and you need to get him back. The story isn’t bad, but the game isn’t exactly stunning. The story is simply adequate, the very definition of mediocre. The game play is very much the same. Penny’s sections are filled with stealth game play while Bolt‘s sections are more conventional platforming with a focus on beating up a decent amount of bad guys in every section. There are some minor hidden elements to build up Bolt’s super power bar or his health but for the most part the game is going from point A to point B.
There are a few shining spots in this game that I’d like to mention first. For one, Penny’s stealth abilities are relatively interesting. The main focus of her sections seem to be around using a motorized bar with wheels on it, surprisingly called a “wheel bar”Â. She also has an interesting little device called enhanced vision which basically highlights all of the right paths. It makes trudging through the relatively similar looking terrain easier for most of the game. If it wasn’t for this feature, the stealth sections would be far too difficult for the average gamer that Bolt. The best part of the game is when Penny needs to hack a computer, and the game switches to a relatively competent twin stick shooter for 8 year olds. While you’re not going to lose any lives playing the game, the shooter is still easily the best part of this game. For those who are interested, it’s a 2.5d isometric shooter with a health bar and it has a relatively simplistic difficulty. Again, this is not a reason to pick up this game (even if you love shooters). It’s a shooter for babies essentially, but it’s the best part of the game. As far as positives go, that’s pretty much for this pile of dreck.
Bolt’s biggest flaw is that the game is so underwhelming where it counts with a movie game. A mediocre movie game can be granted some forgiveness if its fun. Bolt is the antithesis of fun. Bolt is painful to play and even worse to look at especially when taken with the visually impressive but otherwise awful Wall-e. It’s the worst elements of a movie game all mixed up in a putrid blend. Bolt makes Shrek the 3rd look like a Miyamoto blessed masterpiece that somehow shoots girlfriends out of your video game system. I cannot emphasize how unfun Bolt‘s ”go to point A, push block B, race to the next platform before it resets then fight the bad guys and so on” gameplay is.
Bolt‘s visuals are probably the most noticeable flaw at first blush. The game looks like a mediocre PS2 game with its visuals resolution turned up to 1080i. While the graphics are underwhelming, the character design is truly awful. Penny looks like someone with Down Syndrome who wandered out of Code Lyoko into this awful game. The character design for her is simply repulsive. The style of Bolt is just so completely unattractive that it makes it difficult to play the game without being overwhelmed by the desire to skip every cut scene. The textures are muddy, and the environments relatively bland. There’s generic evil mansion, generic evil jungle (with even more generic puzzles), and so on and so forth. The graphics range from hideous to stunningly mediocre. It is insulting that a game like Bolt can see release in this day and age with the extreme lack of polish in the visual style.
Bolt‘s other major flaw comes in its control. The most noticeable is the truly terrible combat for both Bolt and Penny. Bolt’s moves in combat are interesting, but it breaks down easily once you try to play with the various combos. Building up a decent combo is next to impossible simply because there is no time to string combos together. As soon as you touch the ground your combo breaks. Essentially the only way to have any shot at having a decent combo is to be surrounded by enemies (every one of which needs to be finished with a grappling move since that’s the only way to stay elevated long enough to continue your combo). Bolt has interesting abilities at least. His super bark is somewhat fun to use, but his laser eyes, “invincibility”Â, and other abilities are pretty lame. The actual combat in the Bolt sections of the game is simply jittery and buggy. Furthermore, Bolt has very few ”finishing moves” (all established by a quick time button press and accompanied by occasional super cool slow motion sections). Enemy AI is dumb as expected, but it’s not run into walls dumb this time around. I guess that’s a silver lining to the otherwise bleak Bolt sections.
Penny’s sections aren’t much better. While it’s expected that combat wouldn’t be a huge factor in a stealth game, when you are sent into combat the decisions that Avalanche made are suspect at best. Rather then having any actual combat moves, Penny enters into a Quick Time Event when she is spotted by an enemy. These events result in instant kills of your enemies. Furthermore all of her stealth moves result in instant kills. Combat isn’t so much as “combat”Â as much as it is hit the win button. It’s a terrible combination of bad stealth and bad action platforming. It is so annoying to play a game like Bolt simply because there are excellent E games out there these days. Heck, even other movie licenses games like Kung Fu Panda or Spider Man: Friend or Foe (official movie license product as said by the logo) play relatively decently. We’re in a day and age where even kids themselves expect more from their games and Bolt disappoints on so many levels.
While the majority of problems can be pegged on visuals and controls, there are tons of other problems to point out. The cast of the film (John Travolta, Miley Cyrus) is replaced by rather disappointing sound alikes. Malcolm Mcdowell is the lone exception in terms of the big name talent from the movie that makes an appearance in the game. Beyond the big name voices just not being in the game, minor enemy voices are repetitive and offer lame commentary. The vocal talent just isn’t up to snuff in this game. The soundtrack follows suit. It’s simply mediocre. The soundtrack is completely unnoticeable for most of the game.
Bolt is just a lazy, glitch game that paints by the numbers so much that it is simply painful to watch the blatant consumerism. It’s simply amazing that with both parents and gamers both so in tune with both the media and other reviews that Bolt can exist these days. It will appeal to the hundreds of thousands of kids that probably loved Bolt, but hopefully only until they play it. Everything is to the lowest common denominator. There are so many lazy design decisions (like the level selection of China, Russia, and Mayan Jungle) with this game that it inspires nothing but disdain from me.
Control and Gameplay: Very Bad
Appeal Factor: Mediocre
FINAL SCORE: Bad Game
Short Attention Span Summary
Sincerely I cannot say what are worse these days, movie cash-ins or poor movie games. While movie cash-ins permeate any and every facet in our society, a poor movie game is inexcusable these days. There are more then enough examples of why Bolt is an excruciatingly bad game in this review. It’s just upsetting that we’re not beyond this. A ton of care was put into the Bolt movie. Why can’t the game have the same amount of care and love put into it? Do not buy, rent, or play this game. It is not worth your time or your child’s time no matter how abundant it may be.