No, don't run away yet. It's true that Stitch: Experiment 626 is created by Disney Interactive and is based lightly - and I must emphasize lightly - on a recent Disney movie, but it's not at all what you would expect. The flowers and tropical backgrounds from the film are not present, and instead are replaced by atomic weaponry and dark environments. Experiment 626 isn't a typical cutesy platform game, but probably belongs somewhere in the action or shooter genre. Don't let the title fool you - 626 is a surprisingly solid game.
In terms of plot, Stitch is actually a prequel to the movie Lilo & Stitch. On a distant planet, Jumba, a mad scientist of sorts, created Experiment 626 (AKA Stitch) during one of his many genetic experiments. Despite his "cute and fluffy" look, Stitch was designed for massive destruction. Experiment 621, an earlier and less successful version of Stitch, eventually becomes jealous of Jumba favoring the all-powerful Stitch, so the failed experiment begins to plot against our little blue hero. The movie picks up where the game finishes, starting with the imprisonment (and escape) of Stitch by galactic police, who no doubt consider him a threat. Taking on a completely unique look in comparison to the majority of the movie, Experiment 626 seems completely different from most other Disney games. Yes, that's a good thing.
Although there have been more visually appealing action games for the PS2, the graphics in Stitch do not disappoint. A fair amount of detail has been put into the backgrounds of the massive levels encountered in the game. Stitch himself has made an excellent transition from a simple 2-D cartoon to a smooth three-dimensional fighting machine. The overall graphics in each level, including the enemies, items, and everything that Stitch destroys, are very smooth and nicely animated. If you're looking for a graphical wonder, you might not find it here, but I personally can find little to complain about in this department.
I must also emphasize the differences between the PlayStation Lilo & Stitch game and Stitch: Experiment 626. While the PlayStation adaptation was aimed for a young audience, Experiment 626 was definitely meant for a different age group. Younger children will probably not like Stitch, due to the slightly awkward controls and the general idea of the game. The point of 626 is not to collect flowers and jump around a lot, but rather to destroy pretty much everything within sight. Initially armed with one atomic pistol, Stitch can collect up to four of them (one for each hand) to cause some serious destruction. I must admit that shooting four guns at once at some unsuspecting little aliens was sadly a lot of fun. Aside from the expected slew of monsters, many items are scattered throughout each level just waiting to be blown up. Crates, statues, and blocks of ice are just a few of the background objects that must be destroyed by Stitch in order to find and collect DNA for his creator, Jumba. Once a certain amount of DNA is collected, other levels and worlds are unlocked for Stitch to explore.
Many hidden items are available to the dedicated player. The most valuable of the secret items are film reels, which can be collected and then traded in at the end of each level in exchange for full-motion videos. Many FMVs directly out of the movie are available, and each one is of the highest quality possible. Disney even threw in a few amusing trailers for the movie, as well as all of the in-game cut-scenes which become automatically unlocked as you play through the game.
I won't go as far to say that this game is "difficult", but it's not easy stuff, I assure you. The controls are rather tricky to master even for an experienced player. Some enemies will really test your skills, causing you to either fight with everything you have and destroy them or turn and run for your life. Luckily, Stitch has infinite lives in order to minimize frustration. You can jump into a pool of acid ten times in a row if you'd like, but you'd still start back at the last checkpoint. Good thing, too, since I'd probably have thrown this game out the window if this feature had not been included.
Speaking of control, Stitch's camera angles are slightly awkward. The camera doesn't follow Stitch as he goes, but rather constantly switches according to the direction that Stitch is facing. This is where I encountered my largest problem with the game, though I suppose it could also be considered a valuable lesson. Constantly spinning camera angles and the tendency to get motion sickness do not mix. I could barely make it through each level without having to pause it, lay down, and stare at the ceiling for several minutes to get my balance back and keep my nausea down. Don't get me wrong - I had a lot of fun with this game. I wished that I could play it more, but my stomach simply couldn't take it. Those with weak stomachs (or those who simply don't like to be spun around a lot) be warned - Stitch might not be the best choice for you.
Don't expect any tropical music or Elvis in this spin-off of the popular Disney movie. 626 is filled with industrial music like most other games in the action genre. The musical themes are very appropriate to the game and keep you in the action. Sound effects are also well-placed. From simple gunshots to Stitch's maniacal laughter as he goes on a shooting rampage, every sound is as good as you could ask for. As is the case with most Disney movie adaptations, several voice actors from the movie also return to play the roles of characters in the game. The in-game cut-scenes contain a lot of voice acting, which is very well done and even consistently matches the characters' mouth movements.
Bottom Line: Luckily, enjoyment of the movie is not a prerequisite for enjoying this game. If you liked the movie, I can't guarantee that you'll automatically like Experiment 626. Any fan of the action, platform, or even shooter genres will most likely enjoy Stitch, but I must warn that those who want a very serious and incredibly thrilling game (or those prone to motion sickness) might not want to take a chance with Stitch. As for everyone else - I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
· · · Ren