Continuing the grand tradition of summer movies that become summer games, Sony has brought us Stuart Little 2 for the original PlayStation. As with most games appearing on the PlayStation these days, Stuart Little 2 pushes no boundaries and takes no chances. It's a simple platformer in the style of Mario 64 that is best suited to little kids who enjoyed the movie. Serious gamers, however--even the platforming addicts among them--will certainly find a more engrossing game experience elsewhere.
Based on the kids movie of the same name that recently saw theatrical release, Stuart Little 2 finds the heroic pip-squeak traipsing around Manhattan with his bird friend Margolo. The duo is trying to recover a mass of jewelry stolen from the (ahem) good-natured people of New York by Falcon, the evil crime lord of the animal underworld. Stuart has to run, jump, climb, and swim his way through six levels, tracking down the stolen jewelry and evading pint-sized danger. After the jewelry has been collected and returned to its owners, Stuart will challenge Falcon himself to rid the animal world of the menace for good.
Like many modern 3D platformers, the gameplay in Stuart Little 2 is based on a hub from which you can access the game's various levels. Your ultimate objective in each level is to collect jeweled rings, which are the equivalent of Super Mario 64's stars. Initially, only one level is available, but once you've collected enough jeweled rings, you'll open up the next level, and so on until you reach the final showdown with Falcon. Of course, once you've gone on to new levels, you can revisit the old ones by returning to the hub so you can pick up jeweled rings that you missed earlier on.
Stuart has the typical collection of platforming moves at his disposal as he navigates the game's levels. He can collect small pieces of fruit and throw them at enemies, and he has a tail-spin move that will dispatch threats as well. He can climb up poles and a variety of other surfaces, monkey-bar across ceilings that are appropriately marked, and even grab hold of balloons to fly across parts of the map. The standard dash and double jump round out the move list. In short, the gameplay in Stuart Little 2 is vanilla platforming fare.
There are a number of ways to pick up the jeweled rings that are your focus. One ring is simply hidden somewhere on each level, and you can search around to find it. Another can be gained by collecting 60 cat treats, the game's version of coins, for Stuart's friend Snowbell, who will then trade you a jeweled ring for the snacks. There is a golden suitcase located somewhere on each level, and when you find that level's golden key, you can track down the suitcase and open it to receive another jeweled ring. Finally, locating six "face blocks" will create a bridge to yet another ring on each level.
One other way to collect rings is through the minigames that are unique to each level. These games provide a decent break in the platforming action and include such activities as riding a model train to collect stars, driving a miniature motorboat, and racing a grasshopper through the park. Successfully completing each game gives you another ring. These games are at least a minor diversion from the main gameplay, and they're welcome at times.
The best word to describe Stuart Little 2's game design is "safe." The game doesn't do anything to advance the platforming genre, instead relying on established ideas and concepts that have been in use for years. That doesn't make it a bad game, of course, just an unimaginative one. Younger fans of the movie who only have a PSOne might be interested in it, but serious platform fans will be far happier with the Jak & Daxters and the Mario Sunshines of the world.