Alex Rider: Stormbreaker is an isometric action/stealth/fighting game, based on the 2006 film Stormbreaker, where you play as teenage spy Alex Rider who is recruited by MI6 to investigate a shady individual called Herod Sayle. The game was created by Razorback Developments and published by THQ in the same year as the release of the film.
Alex can avoid or fight enemies and has a repertoire of fighting moves at his disposal. He also receives several James Bond-like gadgets throughout the game that help him complete his missions, such as a sodium pentathol pen (which allows him to stun enemies); metal-eating cream (that burns through metal doors); the Bug-Finder (which helps find and destroy bugs), smoke bombs (provides cover and knocks out guards), a yo-yo (used to swing across large gaps), and a tracker (which allows Alex to see guards before they see him).
The game is viewed from an overhead perspective with the screen scrolling around Alex as he moves. You begin in an M16 training camp, which acts as a tutorial so you can get used to the game’s controls. Alex automatically jumps when he walks over gaps, or certain obstacles, like laser barriers. Combat is real time and happens whenever you encounter an enemy. You can punch (A button) and kick (B button) and can also do a other moves by pressing the A and B buttons simultaneously. You must hit enemies repeatedly until they flash and disappear. If you trip a bug, without first detecting and smashing it, it will set off an alarm and enemies will swarm you. Your health indicator is shown at the bottom of the screen and depletes whenever you take damage. If it reaches zero then it’s game over, but there are pickups available that continually restore it. Alex can acquire advanced attack moves as he progresses through the game, which are necessary because enemies do become tougher and more numerous the deeper you get into it.
Alex Rider: Stormbreaker does also have a stealth element to it, like using cover to hide or sneak past guards, or dodging searchlights, but in general you’re probably going to want to bash guards than avoid them, because it’s just more fun. Puzzles are mostly maze-negotiating, switch-pushing, or keycard-finding exercises. The game also has a number of minigames that are presented to you by weapon inventor Smithers (the game/film’s version of James Bond‘s ‘Q’), which adds some variety to the gameplay.
The dialogue in the game is brief and ridiculous (Alex: “I don’t want to be a spy“; MI6: “We thought you’d want to avenge your uncle“; Alex: “Okay, what do I do?“), but chances are you’re not playing this game for the story – you just want some action. Gameplay-wise, Alex Rider: Stormbreaker is not bad. Movement and combat are simple and the first three or four levels are easy to complete. The game starts to get challenging around level five when you’ve learned a few advanced moves. These new advanced moves (like sweep kick) tend to only work if Alex is the right distance away from an enemy, so unless you’re careful (and use combinations of attack moves, or correct positioning) then you can find yourself getting knocked down a lot, or even dying.
Alex Rider: Stormbreaker was heavily criticised after its original release, but I don’t think the game is all that bad. It’s nothing special, but is playable and involving enough. It’s certainly not deserving of a panning. A Nintendo DS version of Stormbreaker was also released the same year as the Game Boy Advance version, but it’s a completely different game and was created by a different developer.