Stitch: Experiment 626 is the latest videogame entry meant to promote Disney’s recently released to DVD film, Lilo & Stitch. Unlike numerous Lilo & Stitch games that attempt to recreate the look and feel of the movie, Experiment 626 is being billed as a prequel of sorts, perhaps because releasing yet another L&S game based solely on the movie would be incredibly redundant. But while the franchise to which this game is attached may sell enough copies to turn a profit for Disney Interactive, it does feature surprisingly coherent and solid action that is somewhat reminiscent of the then-innovative MDK titles from a few years back. You’ll play the part of Stitch, a small six-limbed alien creature with superhuman strength and startling social skills. It is up to Stitch to visit various worlds and collect DNA samples to further the research of Jumba, the alien responsible for Stitch’s genetic engineering. While platforming acrobatics is 626’s main focus, there is also an undeniable aspect of blowing things up that, to a certain extent, makes you want to keep the Dual Shock in its full and upright position.
The various stages that Stitch will eventually explore are laid out in a multi-tiered style, where the same level is connected by a few different types of atmosphere and methods of progression. Controlling Stitch through these unique stages is very simple and the control style is adequately tight, allowing for well-placed double-jumping and targeted attacks. But just a solid gameplay scheme alone wouldn’t be enough to make 626 entertaining, it’s the cool weapon power-ups and bullet time-style slow-motion ability that Stitch harnesses that actually makes this game stand out in a sea of horribly inane movie-based videogames.
Aside from the obligatory 3D platforming requisites like moving in any direction, double-jumping, and climbing, there are a host of other more-interesting techniques such as Speed Burst, which is actually more of a slow-mo effect. By hitting L1, Stitch can drop to all sixes and scurry along at a faster pace while his surroundings move at “normal speed.” Hitting L1 while in the air is particularly cool as Stitch can target and shoot enemies with precision and even perform a Ball Slam to cause unprecedented damage and devastation. Stitch can also lift very large objects and hurl them at foes; yet another way 626 purports mass destruction. Stitch has the ability to quadruple fist ray guns and as he collects more ray guns, his rate of fire speeds up. You’ll start out with the aforementioned ray gun, but you can also equip a foe-freezing ice ray that will make enemies explode into hundreds of icy shards. And you can also use what is called a “big gun,” which is essentially a semi-self-guided missile launcher. The grapple gun allows Stitch to swing from designated latch-on points to reach new areas.
Since the only way to progress from level to level is to collect elusive DNA strands, Stitch will constantly need to be on the lookout. Once he collects the requisite amount required to unlock the next stage, he can either continue on through the level and keep collecting DNA or end the current stage and start the next; though the latter option isn’t the best way to go about it since the DNA you collect carries over to the next stage, so the amount of DNA you need to collect on the previous level determines how many you will need to find on the next. One place that DNA, among other items and power-ups, can be found is within destructible objects that are strewn throughout each level. By repeatedly shooting crates, alien structures and crystals, different items will be emitted from the destroyed object. There are also movie reels that can be picked up and then spent in the options mode to unlock various clips from the film.
From a visual standpoint, Stitch: Experiment 626 isn’t impressive by any means, but it is certainly on par with other comparable platformers like Crash Bandicoot: WoC or the first MDK. The interspersed particle effects are undeniably cool, though. The most lacking aspect of 626’s visual presentation is in its drab, blurry textures, which is most evident on the generic background objects and structures. The camera system suffers from occasional clunkiness, not aligning with the direction Stitch is facing in a timely manner. In fact, plenty of needless deaths were caused by the unresponsive camera system. The auditory aspects fare a bit better than the graphics. The music is sort of fast-paced rock n’ roll techno style that is actually fairly enjoyable, although it doesn’t entirely gel with the game’s outer space alien theme. The various yelps and quips that Stitch emits are pretty enjoyable and sometimes taken directly out of the film, which is nice.
I wouldn’t recommend Stitch: Experiment 626 to someone who is looking for an excellent 3D platforming title, but for fans of the film it is certainly a worthy option. Movie-to-game titles usually tend to be a lot less playable than this, so at the very least it is worth checking out.