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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


 

         

 

 

 

 

Sony and Disney have teamed up to create an original shooting game for the PS2 based on the popular animated movie Lilo and Stitch. However, this title doesnít exactly hew to the movie, as it takes place before the events in the film. Itís placed as an "Action shooter" with elements of shooting and platform titles mixed together. The game is bright and colorful with excellent silky visuals that do the consoleís abilities proud. Itís nice production values and decent play make it a must for the younger set, but will it appeal to older gamers? The Laser takes a close look at Stitch: Experiment 626 and finds out.

While many have complained in the past that crossover titles based on movies have rarely yielded the synergies promise, there are occasions where the promises are met. Even though itís still not the occasion for elation one would expect, Stitch: Experiment 626 shows content providers, game developers and publishers are beginning to get into a series of better habits. This isnít going to knock your socks off, and itís not revolutionary in design or concept, but it is a solid title with enough appeal that older gamers should find at least some enjoyment in the experience. In the game, youíre Stitch whoís been assigned by his master, a mad scientist, to go through several alien planets in search of DNA which his master wants to use to create more genetic experiments. The game is a manic, 3D action platformer with a lot of shooting and some clever puzzles to solve. Itís not that difficult to understand the basic mechanics, and the game is almost plug and play, though there are a few things to learn beforehand. If youíve seen the movie, youíll know the lead character is a manic burst of energy who causes a lot of chaos. The game seems to fit in well with the movie, and offers plenty of action platforming action. The levels are large but their layouts are simple enough that youíll rarely get lost. Stitch has a lot of different abilities including climbing and jumping, which helps him get through the levels. The gameís structure is divided into different worlds, with smaller sub-levels which can be chosen. This gives things an nice easy to understand structure, and helps the player progress naturally since the game gradually becomes more complex.

The game play is surprisingly smooth because the designers have implemented an intelligent control scheme. Even inexperienced players will find that controlling Stitch isnít that difficult. Most of the controls are fairly straightforward and the character moves around with a pleasing responsiveness that allows you to concentrate on the action. Blasting enemies takes some skill since thereís no auto-target but it adds to the overall enjoyment. Stitch also features a decent camera system that makes it simple to understand where you are, which makes jumping from area to area easier than in other games. Thereís a good variety in the gameís environments and levels, with different tasks and objectives facing the player in each round. The difference with this and other platform titles is Stitchís guns, which makes the game more fun than one would expect. The levels are challenging yet not overly so and thereís plenty of hidden paths and secrets to find throughout, not to mention a nice supply of enemies. The enemies themselves look cool and are surprisingly aggressive. This keeps things from becoming overly tedious, and thereís actually a lot of challenge to be had. Stitch isnít your average tie-in platformer since navigating some of the obstacles requires some skill and dexterity. The gameplay is fairly interesting throughout, but obviously a tad simplistic given the younger demographic. Stitch can gain several power-ups along the way including a jet pack and extra weapons to blast with, which further makes this adventure worthwhile.

Visually, the gameís production values are outstanding, with bright and colorful environments making for an impressive aesthetic experience. Whatís also cool is that the characters in the game mostly come from the universe of the film, but there are a couple who are exclusive to the game. Stitch himself is an engaging and funny character and easily has enough personality to carry the game, in fact more so than some of the Ďmascotí titles that have come along recently. Stitch also has some really good voice acting and the 50ís music (taken from the Hawaiian score of the film) does a remarkable job of jelling with the gameís overall mirthful feel. As an added bonus, players can unlock several scenes from the movie, plus production stills and trailers, which gives the game an unexpected extra value. The overall production values on Experiment 626 are very high, and developers High Voltage Software should be commended for an excellent job, when a merely average one would have met expectations.

If thereís any major problem with the game, it comes later on, as levels and enemies begin to blend together a bit. While there are some noticeable attempts at creating a diversity of objectives, the game still canít hide the lack of variety in the enemies. There are only a few types of these and they arenít that difficult to dispose of. There are also several points where the levels seem to become excessively difficult, penalizing the player for small errors. This are however, only minor problems and donít detract from the gameís quality. While it wonít win any awards for originality or innovation, this is still a solidly entertaining title that successfully recreates the feel of the movie. Younger or less experienced gamers should have a good time, while those who like their platform games with plenty of action should be pleasantly surprised. What Stitch Experiment 626 proves is that it doesnít always pay to go on name, reputation or advertising alone, this may be aimed at  kids, but itís a good solid title that should keep players interested for quite some time.





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