The Percy Jackson and The Olympians: The Lightning Thief video game roughly tracks the storyline of the book. This is a fantastical tale of a troubled 12-year-old boy who discovers an alternative reality where Greek Gods walk amongst us; and the reason he has never met his father is because he is Poseidon, the God of the Sea. When Percy discovers he's a demigod, his special abilities finally make sense.
The source book is full of mythical creatures including a Minotaur, Medusa, Hydras, Hell Hounds, and Furies. It also has locations that include Hades, Mount Olympus, and a special place for demigods called Camp Half-blood. Demigods have magical powers that vary depending on which Greek God was their parent. Obviously, Activision had a wealth of material upon which to draw. It chose to focus on the magical abilities of the demigods to create a tactical role-playing game which emphasizes turn-based fighting.
The game plays out over three locations: New York, The Hermes Map, and Los Angeles. As the story enfolds through text screens, the action is about winning a series of fights. At first you just have Percy Jackson and his best friend Grover, a satyr, to control. Being the son of Poseidon, Percy has the special ability to control water as a weapon. Grover has the special power to heal.
As the story progresses, you pick up additional playable demigods who join you on a quest to find Zeus' stolen lightning bolt and to rescue Percy's human mother from Hades.
Being a turn-based fighting game means that you select which demigods to take into battle; and for every turn within the battle, you decide what magical weapon to use on your enemies. After you select a weapon, you see the demigod do the action, but you don't actually participate in the combat. You can see Percy use a sewage stream to poison an enemy or watch Percy's friend Annabeth thrust a sword. No blood is shown during these battles, and defeated enemies just fall down.
Strategizing about which demigod to use in battle is interesting because each has his or her own unique set of powers that can be upgraded and expanded. And figuring out which demigods work well together against a powerful enemy like Medusa takes some practice.
Throughout the game, your demigods will participate in minor skirmishes that earn them upgrade points so that they can get strong enough to win against the really powerful enemies known as "bosses". Boss battles are frequent, which means that you will face Hades, Ares, the Hydra, the Minotaur, King Midas, the Furies and many other mythological foes. The key to winning these battles is selecting the right team of fighters with abilities that work well together.
Rick Riordan's clever and exciting book provides a rich palette for making an exciting video game. Unfortunately, Activision did not take advantage of this wealth. While they developed a deep combat system of supernatural powers, they failed to provide enough variety in the gameplay to make the game compelling.
The Lightning Thief game suffers from being a one-pony show. There is just turn-based combat, which gets old. Plus the highly inventive and fascinatingly complex story about how the Greek Gods are part of our current world gets lost in the text screens which tell, but do not show, many of the highlights of the book.
For fans of the book series, exploring all of the demigods' powers will be intriguing at first. But the sameness of the gameplay will eventually take the sparkle out of getting to play with some of your favorite literary characters.
If your kids love Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief book or discover this fascinating hero by seeing him on the big screen, you might want to rent this game instead of buying it.
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