“Alex Rider is a normal teenager who lives with his uncle, a boring bank manager… Or so it seems until Ian Rider dies in mysterious circumstances. Alex discovers his uncle was in fact a spy and has been murdered by one of the most dangerous assassins in the world. Recruited into MI6, the schoolboy is thrust into the world of espionage. Linguist, scuba diver, mountaineer, expert shot, and martial arts expert, Alex has all the attributes required to make the perfect teenage super spy.”

The following statement should fill you with dread: THQ license-based handheld game. Few have mishandled beloved characters in an interactive format as much as THQ has. Mind you, I’m not sure how many people here in the U.S. would consider Alex Rider beloved. Based on the Hit! series of books and the Hit! movie, Alex Rider: Stormbreaker’s titular character is super-cool teenage superspy with dashing good looks, British charm , and a penchant for gadgets and technology. The movie hasn’t crossed the pond yet, but the plot of the game supposedly ties in note for note with the movie, which chronicles the rise of young Alex into the ranks of M.I.6 and embarks on his first mission. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?Apparently the texture artist for this game equated ‘realistic’ with the noise filter in Photoshop. The fuzzed-out multi-hued static mess of poorly animated low poly models that comprise what passes for graphics in this game acts like a cheese grater to the eyes. One might think I’m being a little harsh, but put this game side by side with, oh, say, the first Doom game, and you’ll be wishing it was that good.

The user interface resembles a collage of Geo-cities ‘greatest hits,’ and character animations are barely, if even, mediocre. The only thing worse than looking at this game might be watching a video of someone forced to play it. It is painfully obvious that soundtrack production on this game either consisted of downloading incredibly generic techno loops from the internet or playing through preset loops on a Casio keyboard. Sound effects are equally bland and forgettable. Continuing proof of the dismal production quality of this game.Rarely have I played a game with controls as sloppy and sluggish as this. There is such a disconnect between what is happening on the screen and what your hands are doing that at times it hardly feels like you are doing anything at all. The only notable exception is the part of the game where you play snooker, which is done passably well, but is ever so brief.

A good example of this is the first section where you are playing as Ian Rider, escaping from the bad guys on a motorcycle that evokes a Road Rash vibe that never delivers. Veering left and right and accelerating forward and backward, the idea is to steer into your opponent and punch them off of their bike. Unfortunately, the mushiness and delayed action on the controls (combined with the incredibly stiff animations) feels more akin to playing an LED game from the early eighties than the Sega Genesis masterpiece.Mushy controls, poor graphics, and forgettable audio- surely the gameplay must have some redeeming qualities, right? Sadly, no. From the wanna-be Road Rash beginning to the incredibly bland ‘action’ style of the main game, the most fun to be had is turning the DS off and removing the cartridge. The premise of controlling a spy kid is actually pretty sound, but the execution just stinks. Example: Alex’s primary spy gadget is a modified Nintendo DS, which is a great idea, except for the fact that the game itself hardly even uses the unique features of the platform and when it does, it does so poorly.

Combat is the most common activity in the game (which is a little odd considering it is marketed more as a stealth/spy game), and consequently the most snooze inducing. With mechanics that can only be described as simplified button-mashing, each battle is nearly identical to the last, and there are only about three or four moves that can be executed- combos are non-existant. The main problem with combat, however, is that your character is flailing around punching and kicking air more often than actually hitting your foe.There just isn’t any good reason to subject yourself to this game. Fans of Alex Rider will undoubtably get roped into playing it, but the incredibly poor quality on all levels may even sour them to the books and film. If Stormbreaker came out about 15-20 years ago it might actually be considered a mediocre game. As it is, it ranks very highly on my list of ‘worst games ever played.’ THQ has really sunk to a new low in poor handling of liscensed games with Alex Rider: Stormbreaker, and their track record wasn’t too good to begin with. About the only thing that might redeem this game is if I had found out that a 12 year old kid programmed it on his own using a Commodore 64 or something.

n/a