Game Review: Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
Release: February 9, 2010
Developer: Griptonite Games
Available Platforms: Nintendo DS
ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+
Website: Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
Enter a secret world of mythological creatures and demi-gods as you, Percy Jackson, son of Poseidon, recover Zeus’ missing lightning bolt. You are not alone in this quest as you have your good friend and protector, Grover, to help keep you safe. Along the way, you meet several other demi-gods who are willing to fight alongside Percy Jackson to ultimately stop the war of the gods.
If you are unfamiliar with the original book and/or recently released movie, Percy Jackson is a teen living what he thinks is a normal life, until one day he is accused of stealing Zeus’ master lightning bolt. With this accusation, Percy is of course confused, but in great danger. Hades, the God of the underworld, has sent his minions to kill and retrieve the lightning bolt from Percy Jackson. With the help of his teacher Chiron, protector friend Grover, and his mother Sally, he arrives at camp Half-Blood. On the way, he encounters and, to his surprise, slays a Minotaur. With the fall of the Minotaur, Percy’s mother dies. Camp Half-Blood is a secret and safe location on earth where demi-gods live and train amongst each other. While here, word quickly spreads around the camp about who Percy is and how he had slayed a Minotaur. The stronger demi-gods of the camp are jealous and take it upon themselves to eliminate Percy. Percy proves the demi-gods are no match for him as he destroys them one by one. While enjoying a somewhat relaxing night around a campfire, an image of Hades rises from the fire and terrorizes the camp. Here, it is revealed that Percy’s mother is still alive in the Underworld and in order for him to get her back, he must give the master lightning bolt, which Percy doesn’t have, to Hades. And so the quest begins.
The core gameplay mechanic is a turn based RPG filled with battles. I say this because you won’t be bothered with 5-10 minute cut scenes or character dialogue. Instead, you move from point to point on the map and remove any threat in your way. Almost every point is a battle, so essentially I could say you are moving from battle to battle. Along the way, you will see star points on the map. These points mark the continuation of the main quest, where the story unfolds. These are the only points you will see any dialogue between the characters or information about the story.
The controls are typical of a DS game where most, if not all, of the input is done on the lower screen. Every action is a simple button press; no long menus to go through to attack or upgrade. As I mentioned before, the core gameplay is battles. When entering a battle, you will notice a time bar at the top of the screen. This bar indicates whose turn it is to attack. Each attack requires a certain amount of squares that are removed from this bar when used. After each turn, the bar is refilled. Whoever is closest to the bar may attack again. If there is a tie, Percy wins because he is favored by the gods. Most of the time when the enemy attacks you, you have the option of blocking up to 50% of the hit. With precise timing, you must tap inside the shield the moment the enemy strikes. If you hit too soon or too late, you may receive greater damage to your character. At first it’s trial and error, but eventually you memorize each enemy attack and are able to block just fine. At the end of each battle you receive team experience points. Earn enough and you will receive upgrade points or new abilities for each character. Items are also dropped from the enemy after each battle. Proper selection of abilities is crucial to success in each battle. If you don’t like the abilities of a certain character in your party of 3, switch between 1 of the other 5 characters following Percy. Also, no need to worry about healing your characters at the end of each battle; it is automatic. During the battle however, be sure to watch the health of your party as it will deplete quickly. Have a healing character, such as Grover, to heal each character as needed.
What’s great about this game is how many gameplay elements are borrowed from other games. The map is present in other DS games like Puzzle Quest, and Clash of Magic; select the next point, and continue with the story, or next battle. Shield/blocking, I find, is similar to Mario RPG. The music is quite good and fits the overall feel of the mythological world you play in. When you complete the main story you can continue playing in Overtime mode. Here you travel back on the map and remove the evil creatures that still roam the earth.
One of the few things I noticed that could have been improved on, were the critical hits. Occasionally when you attack, you will have the ability to extend the damage you deal by dragging the stylus in the direction of the on screen arrow. Sometimes the trace wasn’t precise enough resulting in a lower percentage dealt. For enemies with a lot of health, getting a high percentage on a critical hit is crucial. The second thing that could have been improved was the blocking. It seemed that, even if you perfectly blocked the attack with the maximum 50%, you’d still receive a huge amount of damage similar to not blocking.
My overall thoughts:
Since it’s a movie tie in game, it’s not meant to provide any new gameplay elements or a brand new story. Surprisingly though, for a movie tie in game, it’s actually a fun and addictive experience. You should be able to get a solid 8 to 10 hours of gameplay. It borrows RPG elements from other games, but it does a good job at it. It follows the movie fairly closely while adding many extra parts for battles and character progression. Blocking takes some time to get used to and reminds me of Mario RPG. It has simple commands for battles and doesn’t involve a lot of strategy. It provides an easy pick-up-and-play game. I think these simple controls and strategies are what kept me playing and wanting to see what happened next. It’s nice to take a break from the “mature” or deep RPG games and play something lighter once in a while. The battles can feel repetitive; same strategy over and over, but wide variety of enemies to fight.
If you like the RPG genre for battles and not so much for the story, this is the perfect game for you. For others that want the story, I highly recommend reading the original book. However, for fans of the movie looking for some myth action on the go, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief is a great choice for the Nintendo DS. It is sure to provide hours of enjoyment.