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Bolt is the video game of the Disney movie that sees a movie star crime fighting dog come to terms with his made up persona. While there may have been a tick missed in capitalising on this dual reality, the developer's focus on the more exciting movie-world certainly creates scope for more excitement.
Fighting games revolve around the interaction of two or more characters in some form of physical combat. Players learn to control characters through either memorisation of button combinations to access more advance moves, or by their reactions and accurate timing.
The unique selling point here is chance to play as characters from the movie in an original extension of the story. Although the dual world of the film is only hinted at here, there is enough ingenuity here to keep most players entertained.
There is additional interests by the ability to play as Penny or Bolt. Each character has their own abilities, strengths and weaknesses and players must adapt their approach accordingly. Bolts level's focus on his movie-world powers and are much more action oriented than Penny's.
The game proceed much like other brawling games (Castle Crashers 360 for instance). You work your way through a series of levels, each of which have their own setting and enemies. The early stages usually introduce you to a new move, weapon or gadget that then becomes fundamental to success later on. The end of each level is guarded by some kind of boss, who must be defeated before moving on.
Characters are controlled with the left stick and attacks are single of combination button presses. There is no manual camera control which is a shame as you are often disadvantaged by not being able to see in a certain direction.
The main single player experience is complemented by some unlockable mini games. These again pick up their graphical theme from the movie, although deliver very different gameplay. Mostly shooting games that are not a million miles from the hardcore pleasing Geometry Wars 360.
Players are drawn to this game because of the familiarity of the franchise. Some may be a little disappointed not to be able to relive the exact scenes from the film, but past this there is some strong entertainment.
Taking on the mantle of Penny and sneaking your way through a field of enemies - silently knocking them out as you go - is both nail biting and satisfying. Balancing this with the exuberance of Bolt's death inducing super powers makes for some great back and forth gameplay. Our kids soon settled into the (somewhat stereo typical) Ellen playing the Penny levels and Thom romping through the Bolt stages - our own little pair of super heroes.
The single player game lasts around 10 hours if you persevere to find all the hidden items. This is long enough for young players but may seem a little short to more seasoned gamers. This can be somewhat offset by the hardcore pleasing minigames.
Young players, although they will be attracted to the film franchise, may be unsettled by the enemy clobbering aspect of the play - although this is unavoidable in the fighting genre it being a contact sport and all. There are also quite a few darker scenes - nothing more than a James Bond inspired spy cartoon - but the suspense here seemed to slightly unnerve our kids (3 and 5). Younger players will also struggle to make use of the more complex moves that rely on strict combinations of buttons.
Those a little older and intermediates who are willing to put in a bit of practice will get more out of the game. Ability and excitement wise, the parent child combination is a good one here which makes it more of a shame it is only one player.
Expert players are best placed to take advantage of the games features although they may not find the movie licence as attractive an option.
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