Bolt is Disney’s latest CGI blockbuster turned into a videogame that manages to avoid the typical demise of a movie-licensed game. Developer Avalanche has crafted a solid platformer built around the superhero portion of Disney’s latest while making it feel less like a cash-in and more like a solid offering. If you or your young ones are a fan of the character there is a lot to love about the videogame incarnation. The only drawback is that some of Bolt’s combos and moves can become cumbersome to younger players, but outside of that it is a solid game built around a loveable character.
Unlike most movie tie-ins Bolt uses a wholly original plot and focuses on the action of the feature film to craft its sequences. The game fluctuates between the loveable superdog and his owner Penny in a mix of button mashing combat and stealth. If you are not familiar with the movie Bolt is an ordinary dog that plays an extraordinary character in the movies. Basically he is a superhero complete with a powerful bark and a mastery of martial arts. Avalanche has taken advantage of this idea to craft the game worlds basing them more off of the movies Bolt plays in as opposed to the drab world he lives outside of the films. This gives the developers the ability to craft some truly exciting levels without feeling the constraints of the movie’s plot.
The game is broken down into two core components and you will bounce back and forth between them at will. Penny’s segments rely more on puzzle-solving and stealth. Generally you are sneaking into a complex, hacking a computer, sliding across ledges with your trusty wheelbar and perhaps taking out a thug or two. She also has a vision mode that will tell her where to go next if you get stuck, perfect for the younger crowd. Penny’s levels feel more laid back and slower paced, which is a nice complement to Bolt’s action-packed combat sequences. The game also balances well for younger kids by allowing Penny to be caught and delivering a quick time event to help her escape. It truly is hard to actually see a game over screen during these levels.
Bolt’s levels on the other hand are a mixture of fast-paced combat and plenty of button mashing, at least in the beginning. Bolt comes equipped with two standard attacks (light and heavy), a couple super moves, throws and of course the coup de grace smart bomb that can knock all enemies on their rump. In the beginning everything feels fairly simple as you bounce from enemy to enemy racking up combos and filling your combo meter, but the further you progress into the game, the more complicated things become. Certain enemies require special techniques to take them down while the constant introduction of new moves can feel cumbersome at times, even for seasoned gamers. Holding down this button while tapping that button is simple when intuitive, but the control scheme feels confusing more often than not until you get the hang of it.
There are also a host of mini-games that you can play that feel strikingly similar to Geometry Wars. These diversions can also be unlocked for play outside of the main game and are actually quite addictive. The single-player experience is surprisingly substantial offering roughly ten hours of game time if you manage to dig through all of the hidden areas and collectibles. The problem is that it really starts to drag on by the end of the game thanks to the repetitive combat and ramping difficulty. One play through will likely be all you need and even Achievement junkies on Xbox 360 will be hard pressed to obtain the full 1000 points out this one. Regardless there is a lot of game here so if you or your kids are a fan, do not hesitate on picking it up.
Visually the game is solid for a licensed game, but it does suffer from some serious camera issues thanks to the static viewpoint. The character models are very representative of the ones found in the movie. Even with these strong aspects the game still looks and feels like a multiplatform title, and that is not a compliment. It does not take advantage of the superior hardware outside of resolution and there are some awkward animations to prove that. The sound could have benefited from better voice acting, and the music ranges from uninspiring to downright annoying.
Even with its rickety presentation Bolt is a highly entertaining and truly enjoyable experience that fans of the movie will enjoy. The combat is mindless and fun and there is enough content and gameplay here to warrant the price of admission. Expect to hit a brick wall about midway through the game, but as long as you can adapt it is rather rewarding. Bolt is a cool concept and I applaud the developers for focusing on what makes the character interesting instead of following the plot of the movie scene for scene.