007: Everything Or Nothing
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2003)
The console version of 007: Everything or Nothing
(PS2, 2003) set the gold standard for James Bond games. I'm happy to report that its high level of quality carried over to the Game Boy Advance. This may just be the most polished portable title I've ever played. The intro screen is very elegant with the familiar Bond theme playing over a digitized still of Pierce Brosnan and some attractive woman. I love that clean-looking, silver menuing system.
The well-designed missions require you to perform a set of tasks but there are secondary objectives as well, like clearing out all enemy guards. Each new location is introduced with a scenic photograph, setting the stage nicely whether it's a Cairo trainyard, a graveyard in New Orleans, or the Peruvian jungle.
You play via an isometric view of the action, and the realistic characters are impressively animated. It's so satisfying to sneak up on a bad guy and choke them, you'll actually prefer to use stealth! The action begins with Bond rappelling down the side of the Hoover Dam, picking off baddies along the way. Periodic car chase stages provide you with a slew of built-in weapons like machine guns, rockets, and oil slicks. The cars may be small but they look sharp and the explosions are nice.
There are certain limitations to the isometric format. Certain missions demand stealth, yet it can be hard to sneak around because by the time a guard appears on the screen you might already be in his line of sight. In addition, there's so much detail in the scenery that the visuals can be a little muddled, especially during hand-to-hand combat.
The saves are frequent and automatic. Between stages you can upgrade your gear to maximize your armor, damage, or speed. The orchestrated music is astonishing for a Game Boy title. Everything or Nothing is so elegant and sophisticated that you'll forget you're playing a portable system. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.
ATV Quad Power Racing
Publisher: Acclaim (2002)
For such a vanilla racer, ATV Quad Power Racing is surprisingly fun and engaging. The single-player "challenge" mode offers nine tracks, each with a distinctive color scheme and enough scenery to convey a unique flavor. From dusty desert roads to snowy mountains, you'll power-slide around sharp turns and plunge down steep hills. The impressive 3D objects and textured roads look like something out of a Playstation One title - pretty good! Your seven opponents are equally spaced out on each track, and you can employ power-ups to overtake them. Speed boosts are the most useful, and others give you extra "air" or allow you to "stick" to the road. My biggest issue with the game is its password save feature. It's bad enough you have to write down a password, but instead of letters, the passwords are composed of odd symbols! ATV isn't great, but its clean visuals and fair difficulty managed to hold my attention. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Nintendo (2001)
Advance Wars is turn-based combat the Nintendo way: Thoughtfully designed, easy to learn, and madly addictive. Despite its war theme, the visuals maintain a non-violent, cartoon-like appearance. You command an army of infantry, tanks, artillery, transport vehicles, and even helicopters as you attempt to wipe out opposing forces or capture their headquarters. The main screen displays both armies scattered over a grid/map. To manipulate your units effectively, you'll have to play to each of their strengths and use terrain conditions to your advantage. When forces engage, a split screen shows both sides and the damage that ensues (with minimal violence of course). There are a lot of subtle details in the strategy, and a nice tutorial illustrates the nuances by walking you through a series of sample scenarios. Advance Wars has a brilliant user interface and the action moves along at a nice clip. The graphics are somewhat plain and it can be easy to confuse different units since there are so many types. Advance Wars has a significant learning curve, and completing the "Field Training" mode is crucial to fully understanding the game. In terms of audio, the dramatic music is absolutely superb, although slightly repetitive. You can save your game at any time during a battle, which is useful since wars can take hours. Some variations let you manufacture new units with factories, but I prefer the pre-deployed unit variations because the game ends much
quicker when you can't replenish your units. Up to four players can "hook up" to engage in a multi-front war. Advance Wars is an engaging strategy game, and it spawned a popular sequel. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Nintendo (2003)
The first Advance Wars was a real sleeper. The media didn't pay it much attention, but hardcore gamers recognized the genius of this addicting strategy game. By the time this sequel emerged, video game magazines were revising history and hailing Advance Wars 2 as the greatest thing since Pac-Man. The truth is, Advance Wars 2 is really just more of the same. There are some new graphics, new head-to-head modes, and special "CO" commands that let you augment the abilities of all your deployed units. But most of the graphics, sound effects, and music have been recycled from the first game. The absorbing gameplay involves moving your army around a map, strategically positioning your troops and weapons in order to capture your opponent's headquarters. The main campaign mode explains the subtle nuances of the game through a series of increasingly difficult missions. It's fun, but boy is it verbose
. After a while, I got really tired of reading all of that text (or should I say, skipping
all of it!). Fortunately, the "Versus" mode offers more than enough options and maps to satisfy anyone's taste. As an arcade-minded player, I prefer the "pre-deployed" maps over ones that have you manufacture your own units. All in all, Advance Wars 2 is a great buy - unless you already own the first game. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Altered Beast Guardian of the Realms
Publisher: THQ (2002)
Altered Beast was a popular arcade game in the late 80s, serving as the first "pack-in" game for the Genesis system. In it, you controlled a man raised from the grave to fight an army of monsters. As you progressed through each stage, power-ups made you bigger and more powerful until you finally transformed in a werewolf or some other creature. Guardian of the Realms is an updated and extended version of Altered Beast with similar hack-n-slash gameplay but superior graphics, sound, and control. The mythological theme is reflected well in the background scenery and monsters you encounter. The nicely rendered beasts include trolls, skeletons, centaurs, giant praying mantis, and grim reapers. The stages are difficult at first because you're just a normal man, but once you start pumping yourself up with power-ups, things start getting easier. And by the time you transform in a monster (which looks great by the way), you're practically unstoppable (until you reach the boss, that is). As a longtime fan of Altered Beast, I was really psyched up about Guardian, but my enthusiasm waned as the lengthy stages took their toll on me. The original Altered Beast was tighter, with shorter but more difficult stages. In this new version, you get sick of punching and kicking the same beasts over and over. In the forest stage, the regenerating bees drove me absolutely crazy. Considering the large number of stages, I appreciate how the cartridge automatically saves your progress. Guardians of the Realms is a not a bad game, but I think Sega overextended the old formula. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
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