Bolt Review for PlayStation 2 (PS2)

Bolt Review for PlayStation 2 (PS2)

This Superhero’s Not So Super

Disney has recently released the movie Bolt, and it’s what you’d probably expect: a very warm, fuzzy animated movie obviously geared toward kids. With every such movie, the next logical step on Disney’s part is to quickly release a partner video game, typically a cheap cash-in released on as many platforms as possible designed simply to get some uninformed parents to pick up the game for a child’s birthday or, in this case, the holiday season.

Bolt screenshot

Unfortunately, Bolt pretty much follows that formula to the letter. While there are some occasional standout characteristics that gave me a little hope for this game, for the most part it’s an extremely formulaic, over-simplified action game with no depth and lots of repetition.

I mentioned there are a few notable aspects of this game, and the first is the way the story is set up. Most licensed games simply rehash the plot of the movie, but Bolt does things a little differently. In order to give players (who the development team assumes have seen the movie) some fresh content, the plot is merely based off that of the movie.

In Bolt, there is a TV show staring the game’s titular hero. The movie itself is all about the animal actor and his adventures outside of this TV show, but the game follows the plot of the fictional TV show. It’s a fairly clever use of a pre-existing plot device. But, aside from being creative, there’s not a whole lot to say about Bolt’s story. Bolt and Penny work together to defeat Calico, a typical villain with a nefarious plan up his sleeve. The story is not at all engaging and the storytelling is no better.

Bolt screenshot

Actual gameplay is divided between Bolt and Penny, and neither section is particularly fun. The portions of the game where you play as Bolt are focused on combat and, as a result, are extremely monotonous. Bolt does have a few special attacks that are kind of fun such as his Sonic Bark, but your use of these attacks depends on your energy bar; consequently, most of your fighting will be made up of Bolt’s regular attacks.

This wouldn’t be such a huge deal, except for the fact that there are a lot of enemies to fight. You’ll be using Bolt’s standard, generic attacks to take down the majority of these baddies, so it should be easy to see why combat becomes so repetitive. Even Bolt’s special attacks aren’t that complex; when there’s this much emphasis on combat in a game, there needs to be some added depth or complexity to keep things interesting. Sadly, there’s absolutely none in Bolt.

Bolt screenshot

The sections where you play as Penny, on the other hand, are more focused on platforming and stealth. At first, I was actually pretty impressed by these parts of the game. The stealth sections initially showed some promise; sneaking around guards in order to achieve objectives was cool. But then I came to the unfortunate conclusion that, when I was found out, I could easily take out guards. In fact, taking them out once they found me was easier than sneaking around them. What the heck? A stealth game where stealth is completely unnecessary is a good example of a game that successfully undermines its most promising gameplay feature.

The platforming is not much better. I found it weird that Penny, who’s supposedly a secret agent, has only one real gadget at her disposal called the Wheelbar. The Wheelbar is just what it sounds like: a bar with wheels on either side. It’s used for sliding across ceilings and traversing obstacles. As a platforming device, it works fine, but I would have liked to see more variety in Penny’s tools. Because she only has one item to use, using the Wheelbar becomes monotonous after a while.

Bolt screenshot

Where the Wheelbar would have really been interesting is in some open areas where you use it to explore and find out how to progress through the game. Unfortuately, as this is a game geared toward children, the level design completely removes any need for creative thinking, particularly with this tool. Each character’s sections are made up of extremely linear, uninteresting paths. The only real difference is that when you’re playing as Bolt, you’ll often come across open areas to fight Calico’s henchman.

Graphically, Bolt is none too impressive. The framerate is decent, but the actual character models and animation are not done very well. The music is also very generic and uninteresting. This bland presentation really does a good job of characterizing the game; it just doesn’t feel like a lot of effort has gone into it.

Bolt is severely lacking any challenge, and this is largely a result of its intended audience. Combat is a mindless, repetitive chore; you’ll seldom if ever die, though it’s worth mentioning that enemies can soak up a lot of damage before they are defeated. Penny’s sections are even easier. You can simply tap a button to have the intended path highlighted for you, completely removing any minimal need for exploration in this already linear game. Finally, all that you need to do to take down a foe once he’s found you is to tap a single button in a very easy quick-time event.

All told, Bolt is pretty much what I expected: a shallow, boring, repetitive game with very little depth and uninteresting gameplay. While it doesn’t fail miserably in any one particular game component, it never really stands out in any area either. Aside from a few moments of sudden potential, Bolt is a mediocre game worth avoiding. Even if you’re looking to purchase a game for a youngster, there are better titles out there to pick up.

Despite a generally stable framerate, the animation suffers in places and the game on the whole is grainy and not nice to look at. 2.4 Control
Controlling Bolt is particularly boring, as it essentially develops into a button-mashing fest – not exactly my idea of fun. 2.3 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
As in many licensed video games, Bolt’s music is bland and forgettable. Sound effects are just as bad. 1.9 Play Value
Bolt is a fairly short game devoid of depth or complexity; there’s very little reason to even bother playing it. 2.6 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • A new story inspired by the action-packed TV show for the film.
  • Fight foes and use stealth to defeat the evil Calico.
  • Play as either Bolt or Penny.

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