Movie licensed games, especially those created from family-friendly properties, have gotten a bad rap over the years, and it isn’t hard to see why. Only a few of them have been genuinely great, and while many others have been epic failures, the majority seems to be designed to be merely passable. Bolt, an Avalanche Software-developed PS2 game starring the characters featured in Disney’s 2008 movie of the same name, sadly falls into that third category, achieving merely mediocre status.
Story (3 out of 5)
If you’re looking for a video game retelling of the motion picture’s plot, you’ll come away disappointed here. The developers have gone for an original tale, a prequel of sorts, featuring plotlines from the fictional Bolt television series. It’s an interesting approach, choosing original material over a quick cash in, and Disney and Avalanche deserve kudos for making such a bold decision. Of course, the originality would be meaningless if the writing wasn’t any good, and thankfully it isn’t bad. While mainly an action tale akin to a popcorn flick, there is plenty of humor sprinkled throughout.
Gameplay (4 out of 5)
The game is a fairly basic little action/platform title, definitely suitable for the kids. Players control Bolt and Penny as they battle villains, sneak around espionage-style, run, jump, solve puzzle and the like. Kids will definitely get a kick out of some of Bolt’s action-based levels and cool abilities. Not only can he tackle opponents, but he can thrash them around as though they were chew toys and use special moves like the potent Superbark attack, which not only knocks back enemies but can also be used to break obstacles, and Laser Eyes. Even better, sometimes the game goes into slow-motion mode, which definitely enhances the coolness factor of our canine hero’s attacks and abilities.
Penny’s levels, on the other hand, tend to involve more exploration than combat. Often during her segments, players will need to master Quick Time Events–gameplay bits where you need to quickly press the highlighted button. She also can hack into computers, spawning a shooting minigame almost identical to the one used by Bentley in the Sly Cooper games. On the whole, Bolt is pretty enjoyable, but there are times it can be difficult to figure out where you’re supposed to go or do next. It could get somewhat frustrating, especially for younger games. Fortunately, even when they fail, they are given an endless amount of retries, while should help matters out at least somewhat.
Graphics and Sound (3 out of 5)
Visually, the game is passable, barely. It isn’t overly impressive, though some of the environments are well done. Characters are a little too small and the camera is too far back for my taste–I would’ve definitely preferred a closer look at the action. Music and sound effects are pretty forgettable as well. There is voice acting, but I’m almost certain that none of the work was recorded by the stars of the film, John Travolta and Miley Cyrus. On the whole, Bolt looks and sounds like your typical kid’s game.
Overall Rating (3 out of 5)
As is the case with so many of these movie-based games, if you or your kids were a fan of the film then odds are they’ll enjoy the Bolt video game as well. It’s a pretty average and unremarkable product on the whole, and will likely only appeal to those with an affinity for the license or those who are absolute platform-game junkies. The game isn’t really any better or worse than many of the other similar games to come along lately, like Tak and the Guardians of Gross or Crash of the Titans. If you’re not sure this will appeal to you or your family, make sure you rent first.