The first-person shooter genre has moved leaps and bounds since its original conception with such classics as WOLFENSTEIN 3D and DOOM. From these humble beginnings has grown one of the biggest and most popular genres of videogames. The Game Boy Advance obviously can't handle something as elaborate as HALF-LIFE or GOLDENEYE, but its still has the power to put on a game in the vein of DOOM (which has already been released for the GBA). With that in mind, Majesco announced the first FPS for the Game Boy Advance (although it is the fourth to be released), DARK ARENA.
Gameplay is very reminiscent of DOOM. You're trapped in a lab with mutants, and you have to fight your way out of twenty levels. All of the level designs are generic by today's standards. No tunneling paths or bridges and plenty of teleporter pads, locked doors, moving platforms to get up and down, and big rooms where the enemies are. As a whole the game flows pretty well, and only gets bogged down when you have over three enemies in a close area or get too close to a bad guy.
The only other technical flaws in the game come in the form of the AI. A couple of times bad guys just stop in the middle of a fight and don't resume until the player shoots at them again. Other than that the game plays pretty well, even when linked up for some four-player action (a great feature for us HALF-LIFE addicts stuck on an airplane).
While the game runs well, there is little intensity to push the envelope. So much has changed since these games came out, and it just doesn't seem nearly as exciting or intense. There is little in the way of explosions and it just seems rather bland throughout most of the game. The levels are relatively featureless (there isn't much the hardware can handle) and while it's hard to say that it's Majesco's fault, we've been playing next-gen FPS games for years now, so the standards have changed. The fact that the GBA can't live up to those standards may be the biggest disappointment of all.
The graphical engine works pretty well and keeps the framerate up. The animation may be one area where things start to collapse but other than that things look pretty good. It's not the prettiest game ever, but it gets you into the world well enough to pull of the first-person shooter aspect.
The sound might be the most polished part of the game. Great music and good use of sound effects and voices are all over. It's a solid package no matter how you look at it.
DARK ARENA is one of the better games to be released for the Game Boy Advance this year. You probably won't get as much out of it as you will DOOM, but it's not a bad addition to your library in any case.
Platform: Game Boy Advance
ESBR Rating: Teen
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Save: No (Password)
Developer: Graphic State
Suggested Retail Price: $34.99
Fun Factor: B
Reviewer's Wild Card: B-