James Bond 007: Blood Stone (Nintendo DS) - Review by Andrew
In case you weren't aware, Bond makers MGM Studios filed for bankruptcy last month, which rounded off a poor year for the film studio who'd previously stated that there were 'no immediate plans for a new 007 movie' due to financial problems. This should have been something of a concern for license holders Activision but rather than simply sit on the property until matters improved, they have instead gone for an original story: Blood Stone. It's been some time since we've had a handheld Bond and you have to go back to Everything or Nothing, on the GBA, before encountering anything like it. Thankfully, the publishers have employed DS expert's n-Space for the games development but what have them come up with for the worlds best known Secret Agent?
While we won't give too many plot spoilers, for all you 007 fans out there, let's just say the storyline is just what you'd expect from a James Bond movie or even book. Most of the action here is on-foot and the majority of gameplay involves shooting just about anything, which comes into your gun sight. Get too close to an enemy and you'll be forced to engage in hand-to-hand combat (controlled by the D-pad). You do have the option to hide behind walls and other objects should things get to frantic but the AI is so dumb here that it's relatively easy to pick off a number of henchmen in any one area. Should you manage to take too many hits you can duck out of the action for a few moments while your health recovers. If all of this fails there's a generous amount of checkpoints dotted around the levels so you'll never become frustrated attempting to beat the level in one sitting. In addition to shooting there's also a few stealth sections but like the action sections these are unlikely to offer any type of challenge to gamers above the age of 10. One thing, which seems to have become commonplace in a 007 game is the inclusion of 'Bond Moments'. There are plenty of these here and shooting at fire extinguishers, oil drums or anything hanging above (on nearby) a target will result in an enemy being 'taken out' without the need to directly fire at them.
If you begin to tire of the FPS section then you are in luck as the developers have also included some driving sections. You're not actually in control of all of these and the boat sections, for example, are simple 'on the rails' affairs with you shooting at enemies as someone else drives the boat. The car sections are slightly different and here you do have 'full' control over the vehicle but rather than pulling off incredible 'action packed' stunts it is, instead, a simple case of avoiding on coming traffic whist not losing site of your intended target. Finally there's a Multiplayer and while this is essential in any FPS, to extend gameplay, every time we tried to join a game there was no one available to play with but maybe you'll have better luck.
Almost all DS First Person Shooters work in the same way and Blood Stone is no exception. The D-pad is used to move whilst the looking around is taken care of by the touch screen and the shoulder buttons for shooting. You'll also be required to use the buttons and D-pad during the driving sections but because the developers have clearly focused on the FPS section of the game, this really does lean quite heavily to the arcade side of things rather than anything approaching a simulator.
While the DS is far from a 3D powerhouse the developers have still done their level best to bring this ambitious story to the small screen and most of the FPS sections work reasonably well. It's not console standard by any means but n-Space has a considerable amount of experience in getting the best out of the DS and that's still evident here. The same can't be said of the various driving sections and not only is there no real sense of speed but your car is also glued to the road making it feel more like a 'slot racer' rather than anything with any real power or weight to it.
Impressively, not only is the original soundtrack here but there's also a generous amount of spoken dialogue from Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Joss Stone and others.
As with all n-Space developed action titles, the touch screen is called upon to allow the user to look around the environments. This works surprisingly well allowing you to target enemies, and other objects, in a fraction of a second. You'll also require your stylus to solve puzzles, hack computers and crack codes, which wile relatively simple is a great use for the DS's unique features.
If you look past the various flaws in Blood Stone such as the dumb AI and pointless stealth missions then you're likely to find the most entertaining handheld Spy romp you will encounter this year. The action is great fun and the developers have managed to include an impressive amount of ways to use your DS to 'solve' puzzles you'll encounter along the way. It's still a little on the short side though and with a redundant Multiplayer feature you're unlikely to ever pick up Blood Stone again once you have completed it.
Pro: Impressive Audio, Entertaining Shooting Sections.
Con: Redundant Multiplayer, Poor Driving Sections, Dumb AI.
Final score: 6.8