More often than not, games based on movie tie-ins are nothing more than a cash cow with little to offer. It’s nice to see that regardless of Bolt’s short-comings in the plot department, it still offers a decently solid experience.
Rather than jamming the movie script down our throats, Bolt takes place outside of the movie’s storyline, yet still manages to exist in the same contextual universe. So fans of the movie are going to get a bit more to chew on when they play the game which is always an added bonus.
Levels are split into two varieties of gaming. When controlling Penny the emphasis is on sneaking around, solving puzzles, hacking computers and platforming sections which all work well. Penny also has a interesting tool in the wheelbar, which lets her travel along pipes and up crevices. If players get stuck she also has an enhanced vision mode that will point them in the right direction. Movement of Penny is a delight, and the platforming elements fit really well together. Hacking Computer also features a nifty Geometry Wars esque minigame, which is fun but after the first few times, gets a little tired and stale.
Then there is the chance to control Bolt, the superhero dog who likes to fight bad guys. Bolt has several attacks at his disposal, both light and strong, some super attacks and eventually a super mode that can empty a room of bad guys in a matter of seconds. Combos are easy to chain together, and you never really have an issue targeting enemies. More often than not you will find yourself just randomly button mashing, and while this will get you by during the early stages of the game, you really need to learn to identify the stronger enemies, and unleash hell accordingly.
One common feature with both characters is a barrage of quicktime events. Most likely because this game is aimed at a younger audience, but none the less, these events move along at a slow pace and it’s pretty hard to mess up. They seem to be tacked on, and don’t really feel like an integral part of the game. The only time I found them to fit in was during the boss battles, but they are littered throughout the whole game.
Characters are not interchangeable which works out well, because it seems the game can read your mind. Just as a brutal attack sequence is becoming boring and repetitive, the game will switch up to a Penny sequence. The problem is though, that Penny’s sequences, while fun and challenging all involve the same mechanics, sneak here, hack this, get caught and Bolt comes to save the day, there isn’t much variety here.
The game features some great visuals that match the movie really well. The graphics are soft and full of colour, and at times you will be amazed to see some of the amazing vistas on display. Enemies aren’t that varied, but the main characters feature enough detail to look good and cute. The environments offer some variety, going from a complex on the shore at night to the temples in the jungles, it’s detailed yet still manages to keep a cartoon like feel to it.
Sound effects are decent and match the game fine, but the music is a real let down. It’s almost as if there really is no music, you don’t seem to notice it at all except for a few moments towards the end. This isn’t a deal breaker, but the audio is not the game’s strongest point.
Bolt offers no online multiplayer, but it doesn’t really need it. At it’s heart Bolt is a action platforming adventure, and while it features a skin layer thin plotline, it still manages to throw in a strong performance, but one that most likely won’t be giving an encore at the end of the show.