Whereas Nintendo console gamers only get one James Bond shooter this fall, with the first-person GoldenEye 007 on Wii and third-person Blood Stone on HD platforms, DS owners get their pick of the litter with diminutive versions of both courtesy of developer n-Space.
Just as GoldenEye on DS did, Blood Stone 007 sticks with the same viewpoint as its console counterpart, boosting the DS's pithy third-person shooter count with a well-made adventure that has the first original Bond game story since last gen's stellar Everything or Nothing.
Brosnan-era Bond screenwriter Bruce Feirstein is behind the story, told in a bit more ambitious manner than GoldenEye DS attempted. It uses the same voice acting as its big sibling, featuring an impressive amount of spoken dialog from Daniel Craig, Dame Judi Dench, Joss Stone and others, used for many more elaborate in-engine cutscenes during stages and between-mission briefings. It's much easier to make sense of what's going on here than in GoldenEye, too, as its storytelling is more cohesive and doesn't require familiarity with any other material than what's presented.
To the shock of none, Blood Stone and GoldenEye share a lot of similarities on DS: same stylus controls (no all-button option though, so you'll still want to prop your DS on something during longer play sessions for comfort), same character model of Craig as Bond, same basic gameplay. But how Blood Stone veers is via variety: in addition to a new cover mechanic and a nice mix of sneaking and shooting, vehicular chase stages pop up in each mission where you'll, say, pursue a character by driving a car through the subway or take out enemies in a speedboat shootout. Although the driving sequences control a bit funny, the variety is quite welcome and the vehicle sequences are generally good about not overstaying their welcome. Missing from GoldenEye however are extra objectives for higher difficulty settings, though most won't miss them as the added challenge is still satisfying in their stead.
While the Splinter Cell-esque mark-and-execute mechanic from the HD version didn't make the jump to the small screens, the overall shooting works better here than it did in GoldenEye: weapons feel both more accurate and effective, so you won't have to unload a whole clip into a baddie before they drop. Aiming does have an odd quirk when in cover, though: here you can align the crosshair, but when you pop out to fire off a shot it moves along with the screen. It's fairly annoying to line up a perfect shot only for it to get borked, but after a while you learn to take this into account. Oddities aside, combat doesn't get as frustrating as GoldenEye's worst moments, and Blood Stone's highs are just as high, making this area overall feel more polished.
The colour palette is a bit brighter and more diverse than GoldenEye's, letting the world pop a bit more and generally look cleaner. Everything runs very smoothly as well, possibly from reducing the amount of enemies in play at any time from six to four — while this doesn't sound like much, smart enemy placement and game pace makes it so it isn't really noticeable unless you're counting red dots on your radar. Blood Stone is an aural beast, too: in addition to the copious amounts of voice work, the soundtrack composed by Richard Jacques is essentially the same as its HD siblings and an excellent fit for the action.
Also dropped in number is the amount of people able to duke it out in multiplayer, shrinking from GoldenEye's six to four. Overall, this area is a bit less elaborate with fewer modes, and without the GoldenEye name to attract a large Wi-Fi community it might be tricky to find an online game down the line. There's always local multiplayer if you can round up some friends with copies of the cart, though.
It may not have the nostalgic name of the other new Bond game, but Blood Stone manages to outshine its sibling on DS through strong storytelling and stronger combat. Apart from the odd cover aim and vehicle quirk, n-Space delivers a surprisingly fun and well put together game that won't disappoint fans of Bond and shooters alike.