Alex Rider: Stormbreaker
Alex Rider (wait for it)... rides onto handsets. But should you care?
Going into my Alex Rider: Stormbreaker review I was vaguely familiar that the game was a licensed property, but that's where my familiarity with the brand ended. If you're an American reader, you're most likely in a similar position. That's why I exhaustively did my research (ie Google and Wikipedia) to bring you this background, before this review gets going.
The Alex Rider novels (there are six, with a seventh on the way) follow the adventures of the teenage superspy of the same name. Think James Bond, but with exploding zit cream instead of C4, and a Yo-yo instead of a zipline. The first novel, Stormbreaker, on which the mobile game was based, was turned into a major motion picture and achieved modest success in Europe, but received such a tiny stateside release that I wasn't even aware the film had come (and gone) earlier this fall.
Thanks to its novel and film roots, Stormbreaker the mobile game does include a decent narrative that ties together the 2D side-scrolling levels, but it's still nothing more than text bubbles. In a nutshell, Alex is tasked with preventing the nefarious billionaire Mr. Sayle with unleashing a virus that will kill all Britsh schoolchildren. Mr. Sayle's motive? Undisclosed.
In addition to the aforementioned exploding zit cream and Yo-yo, gamers also have smoke bombs, and a high-tech listening device at their disposal. The gadgets are a welcome addition, but their unimaginative implementation detracts from the experience. Their uses are entirely predetermined - see a surveillance camera, use a smoke bomb to sneak by; see a wall grate, use the zit cream to gain access.
Additionally, the level design's emphasis on timed switches make the latter half of the game far too much of a chore. Nearly all the later levels require gamers to trip a switch at the beginning, which opens up a path at the end of the level. Gamers must then rush through the obstacles and enemies, or else time runs out and the entire process has to be repeated from scratch. Frustrating.
Some wonky control issues add to the frustration. Combat is almost insultingly basic - mash the center button to either kick enemies (when in close), or use your yo-yo, when there's some distance. The yo-yo can also be used as a grappling hook to swing from hook to hook, but it's difficult to manage Rider's momentum, and there is nothing fluid about the experience at all.
The experience isn't without its upside - at least there is a narrative, unlike many mobile 2D action titles. And Rider visits a couple of unique locations to mix things up. The final boss fight was more interesting than I anticipated, as well. But ultimately there isn't enough here to recommend the game to Alex Rider fans, let alone mobile action fans in general.
What's Hot: Gadgets!
What's Not: Gameplay!