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Games are rated relative to other games for the same system.

Game Boy Advance Reviews D-F

DK: King of Swing
Grade: B+
Publisher: Nintendo (2005)
Posted: 2006/4/5
Rating: Everyone

screenshotLeave it to Nintendo to take a remarkably simple idea and parlay it into a thoroughly enthralling game experience. In King of Swing we find Donkey Kong moving hand-over-hand across pegs and pegboards, subduing enemy creatures while collecting coins en route to the exit. Amazingly, this game can be played using nothing but the two shoulder buttons!

Pressing either one causes Kong's respective hand to grasp a peg, rock, lever, or whatever else it's positioned over. When one hand is free, Donkey Kong swings continuously, and releasing the button sends him sailing through the air. You press both buttons to jump, and holding them both in initiates a "charge" attack. As usual, Nintendo gets a lot of mileage out of this simple concept, with advanced levels that let you toss rocks at enemies and turn levers to open doors.

King of Swing's gameplay doesn't really lend itself to fancy effects or scenic backdrops, but the understated visuals are clean and attractive. In addition to the main story mode, there are a slew of mini-games you can play alone or against friends. High scores are saved within the cartridge. So if you're looking for an old-fashioned platformer with a unique twist, King of Swing offers wholesome and addictive fun. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 3
Grade: B-
Publisher: Acclaim (2002)
Posted: 2023/6/5
Rating: Everyone

screenshotUnlike the lame Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX (GBC, 2000), this Game Boy Advance version meets the "extreme" criteria. The bike riders are motion-captured polygon figures. Each tiered stage has ample areas to explore and trick opportunities. But most compelling is its digitized soundtrack, offering hardcore tunes from the likes of Green Day (a heavily-censored Basket Case) and Saliva (Click Click Boom).

Each stage gives you a mere two minutes to perform a list of objectives. These may include attaining a certain score, performing a "sick trick", or collecting spray cans. The manual lists dozens of moves but it's often more satisfying to experiment on your own. You can rack up big points by chaining sequences together, but if you wipe out they literally melt away.

Soaring high into the air allows you to pull off crazy maneuvers like superman, decade air, and tail-whip. Grinding is great fun thanks to an intuitive balance meter. You may only have time to complete a single objective during each run, but that's okay because your achievements are cumulative, and you can easily save (to battery).

The portable format does have its limitations. The isometric view makes it hard to judge depth, especially when items are suspended in the air. The stages tend to be cramped and cluttered, making it hard to build up speed. When you hit something the game automatically reverses your direction, which can result in a pinball effect in tight spaces.

Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 3 pushes the limits of the Game Boy Advance. It's got all the features of a console title shoehorned into one small package. Casual players may experience frustration but committed hardcore will relish the extreme challenge. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

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Save mechanism: battery
1 player 

Defender
Grade: C
Publisher: Midway (2001)
Posted: 2003/9/28


screenshotThis updated version of the 1982 arcade classic further illustrates how graphics and sound alone cannot carry a game. Despite its large aliens, 3D ships, photographic backgrounds and digitized sound, this Defender pales in comparison to the original. But that doesn't mean it's a bad game. In fact, compared to most Defender incarnations (the recent Xbox version comes to mind), this is pretty good.

The 2D gameplay is familiar as you fly across a side-scrolling screen while shooting aliens that attempt to abduct humans from the planet surface. For some reason, you can't catch the falling humans, but that's okay because they always survive the fall. The terrific backgrounds include a tropical paradise, but the aliens tend to blend into them. As a result, I spent most of the game staring at the scanner on the top of the screen to locate approaching aliens and gauge their positions.

Each planet stage consists of three rounds followed by a fun vertical bonus round where you catch floating people in space while avoiding debris. Defender gives you a choice of ships, but their firepower is weak compared to the awesome streaming lasers of the arcade game. Like any respectable Defender game, hyperspace and smart bombs are also at your disposal. Defender can't live up to the legacy of the original game, but it's still a nifty little shooter. Note: The original Defender is an unlockable bonus. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 12450
1 player 

E.T. The Extra Terrestrial
Grade: F
Publisher: NewKidCo (2001)
Posted: 2019/1/21
Rating: Everyone

screenshotAll those who singled out Atari's E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (Atari 2600, 1983) as the worst game of all time should be forced to endure this atrocity. You'll find yourself composing a formal apology to Atari, albeit 35 years too late. Don't get me wrong - I'm sure developers of this Game Boy Advance version meant well, but you know what they say about good intentions. The game incorporates digitized sounds and stills from the motion picture, but I guess they didn't get permission to the likeness of Elliott, because they altered his face and it looks disturbing!

E.T.'s ten stages are uninspired, by-the-numbers garbage. The first is a wild goose chase as a bumbling ET tries to collect flowers around a forest. He can't walk between trees, and the paths are infested with tiny creatures that want him dead for some reason. There hasn't been so many frogs and locusts since the Old Testament for crying out loud! These creatures don't inflict much damage but they certainly make your life a living hell.

Subsequent forest stages include creepy police and FBI Agents who sound like predators ("hey you - come here"). When the game tries to introduce new styles of play it completely goes off the rails. The bike-riding stage takes place on narrow, dead-end streets that have you bouncing around like a pinball. Atari's original ET had its issues but at least it didn't make me nauseous. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

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Save mechanism: password
1 player 

Elf: The Movie
Grade: D+
Publisher: Crave (2004)
Posted: 2017/12/10
Rating: Everyone

screenshotIf you're a gamer in need of some Christmas cheer you might want to give this a whirl. Elf the Movie offers a hodgepodge of game styles, and more importantly it captures the good-natured whimsy of the film. You play as a digitized Buddy the Elf (Will Ferrell) and his motion-captured jumps look hilarious.

The first few stages are your typical platform jumping fare with Buddy avoiding polar bears and falling stalactites while collecting candy and bouncing off of gumdrops. The controls are good but it's hard to tell where you're going to land after you bounce high in the air. The winter wonderland scenery looks generic but the orchestrated music puts you in a festive mood. Between stages you're treated to digitized stills from the film and best of all there's no text to read!

The wide variety of stages are enjoyable to varying degrees. The overhead glacier-hopper that reminds me of Congo Bongo (Colecovision, 1984). The controls are forgiving but the stage drags on for way too long. Accidently rub against a polar bear and the game could send you back 20 jumps! Likewise the skiing stage gets so repetitive you'll try to dodge clock icons to avoid extending the time! Once Buddy arrives in New York City he'll need to collect ornaments in a Frogger (Atari 2600, 1982) style level. I like how you recharge your energy by doing laps in a revolving door.

After Buddy lands a job in a mailroom you'll play a series of puzzle games, and the ones with the pneumatic tubes are particularly fun. The snowball battle stage would be a winner if the bad elves didn't appear in such predictable patterns. Towards the end of the game you'll scour Central Park to collect parts to repair Santa's sled.

My main problem with this stage is the blocky city skyline which was a big missed opportunity for some eye candy. The game ends abruptly with some lame congratulations text. An easy romp you can knock out in an hour, Elf doesn't have much replay value but might prove a pleasant diversion around the holidays. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

F-Zero: GP Legend
Grade: C
Publisher: Nintendo (2003)
Posted: 2024/5/7
Rating: Everyone

screenshotI thought I had all the F-Zero games covered until a reader informed me there were no less than three editions of this futuristic racing franchise for the Game Boy Advance: Climax, Maximum Velocity, and GP Legend. Who knew? GP Legend was the cheapest so I decided to give it a go.

Apparently the Game Boy Advance has the same mode 7 capabilities as the SNES, making the game a good fit. This special graphics mode allows easy rendering of flat, rapidly-moving tracks to convey the illusion of speed. The resolution is a little chunkier than the SNES, but comparable.

The story mode features various races tied together with lots and lots and lots of text. No thanks! The grand prix mode is the way to go, offering three circuits with three difficulty settings each. Most of the tracks appear to be holdovers from the original F-Zero, including Mute City and Red Canyon. There are some new selections sprinkled in, including one that makes it look like you're traveling over a massive metal storm grate.

The gameplay has the F-Zero formula down, but doesn't really improve on it. When you hit a wall you'll be bouncing like a pinball and it's hard to get back up to speed. Certain tracks have curious dead ends or multiple forks that can send you heading in the wrong direction. I do like the way your ship scales very large when jumping; it really makes leaping those gaps all the more satisfying.

The controls make heavy use of the triggers. Not only are they used to lean, but double-tapping initiates a "side attack", and boost is initiated by squeezing both triggers at once. When playing this on my Game Boy SP my fingers were cramping something terrible. It felt a little better on my Retron 5 with an SNES controller, but still awkward.

The audio aspect aspect of this game is a surprise. The upbeat music gets you into the spirit and the announcer projects a surprisingly crisp, clear voice. Even the sad music that plays when you crash sounds awesome.

If you're looking for futuristic racing, F-Zero: GP Legend puts it in the palm of your hand. But if you're looking for a game that elevates the series to new heights, you may be disappointed. I can't imagine what the other two Game Boy Advance F-Zero games could possibly have to offer. © Copyright 2024 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: battery
1 player 

Final Fight One
Grade: B
Publisher: Capcom (2001)
Posted: 2004/11/1
Rating: Everyone (violence)

screenshotBeing a huge fan of Streets of Rage (Genesis, 1991), I can appreciate a 2D, side-scrolling brawler like Final Fight One. Few things in life are as satisfying as bashing a thug with a lead pipe, or slugging three goons with a single punch! This GBA edition of the original Final Fight is nearly arcade quality, with graphics that look slightly better than the SNES version. Controlling Guy, Cody, or Haggar, you forge your way through various urban locations including slums, a subway, and a construction site.

The old-school gameplay is appealing, with hand-illustrated 2D backgrounds that are far more interesting than the 3D rendered locations of modern games. Along the same lines, the thumping, 16-bit electronic music is awesome and perfectly suited to the frenetic action. The jump/punch/special control scheme may seem limiting, but it yields an adequate number of attacks, and the throws are especially fun. On your journey you'll encounter Andre the Giant look-alikes and Street Fighter Alpha "bosses" Sodom and Rolento.

Final Fight One is no cakewalk, and just surviving the third level (out of six) requires some serious skill. Like most games of this style, Final Fight's main downfall is how the same bad guys reappear over and over, usually in different colored outfits. Special features that can be unlocked include a stage select, color select, and a "rapid punch" option. If you enjoy old school fighting action, Final Fight One will not disappoint. And one more thing: does anybody else find the title of this game amusing? © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 


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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, GameFAQs.com, Moby Games