Assassin's Creed: Bloodlines doesn't get it. On the surface, it offers many of the features you'd want from an Assassin's Creed game on the PSP. It puts you in control of Altair, the first game's nimble protagonist, and sends you on a mission to assassinate your Templar enemies, who are equally eager to plunge their swords into you. If you delve a little deeper, however, you'll find that Bloodlines skimps on what makes the console games so special. The joy of rooftop running has been diminished by flawed platforming and smaller environments, bustling cities have been replaced by barren districts on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, and AI problems render the stealthy approach all but irrelevant. Bloodlines still delivers the brief bloody thrills you get from a well-timed counterattack, but on the whole, it is a neutered and unsatisfying adventure.
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If you're an Assassin's Creed fan looking to further delve into Altair's life of intrigue, you'll likely be disappointed by the blandness of both the story and the hero. Smartly, the actor voicing Altair has been replaced by a more expressive and appropriate one, thus making it easier to identify with the protagonist. While the game's interface oddly utilizes interface elements and terminology that relate to Assassin's Creed's real-world elements (a synchronization bar, animus menus, voice-overs), Bloodlines is grounded firmly in the past. Unfortunately, the story fails to meaningfully expand on the conspiracy that drives the franchise, delivering instead a halfhearted tale that elicits plenty of yawns but few thrills or surprises. Maria, the Templar Altair spared in his original adventure, is the lone bright spark and provides a bit of sharp-tongued energy in the plain narrative. But even her liveliness can't overshadow the poor voice acting of the minor characters, scattered misspellings in the subtitles, and the generally disinterested manner in which the story is told.
A dreary story could be forgiven if Bloodlines delivered the joy of movement that characterizes the console games, but in time, moving about the rooftops becomes a chore. When the level design and animations work together successfully, which isn't frequent, you can string some enjoyable moves in quick succession by jumping across roofs and platforms, as well as climbing to the tops of tall towers. Unfortunately, city areas are small and there's too much space between the scattered buildings. As a result, you can never establish the momentum that would have made jumping about fun. Other problems further sully the platforming. It's easy to get stuck midstride as you run across slanted roofs, too many walls are smooth and can't be scaled, and multiple sequences hem you into specific platforming routes. Any groove you may establish will also be hindered by the in-game camera, which you manipulate by holding the L button and pressing the face buttons, forcing you to often stop midrun to adjust your view. The camera is largely a consequence of the PSP's lack of a second analog stick, but the resulting micromanagement will make you wish the game had sported a unique design that took advantage of the platform's strengths while minimizing its limitations. Eventually, you'll find it easier and quicker just to stick to the streets, which is a shame in a series that usually inspires you to rise above them.
Altair's blades are still razor sharp.