Serious Sam is a game that took the gaming world by storm for two reasons; it was pure gameplay with no brains required, something the gaming world had not seen for some time and the price structure meant it was almost an impulse buy for some gamers. The first two games on the PC are still some of the most popular games to play in a co-operative fashion and recently under the Globalstar brand, Climax released a third game in the series for the PS2 and Gamecube consoles which took the series through various locations in time. To backup the console versions of the game Climax have also created a GBA version of the title and despite the obvious lower amount of power contained in the handheld, there are still some genuinely impressive aspects of the game.
As with most of the serious Sam games the storyline is almost non existent and quite cliche. Basically Sam is once again thrust into ancient rome after it has been infiltrated by metal and Sams task is to defeat metal and his enemy forces. The storyline is almost an after thought in serious Sam but this is not a problem as the game has never been strong on the story telling side of things and rather focused on pure unadulterated action.
Like the other serious Sam games, the gba version is a 3d shoot em up with the game played in a first person perspective. For the gba this is quite an accomplishment as the game is rendered in what seems completely 3D graphics. Basically the aim of the game is to reach an ankh situated somewhere in each level which completes the task but to do so you will have to shoot through many enemies. The gameplay never really changes and this in comparison to the recently released console versions is a downside. Although the technology is quite limiting, there is no vehicle play in the gba version like the consoles and it is more reminiscent of the original pc game then the recent title with the game being set in the Same style of architecture all the way through the game.
However that is not the biggest problem with the game and this is almost a fatal flaw. The aiming system and skill of the enemy characters has not really taken account that aiming with the gba controls without an auto aim system is nigh on impossible. The game does feature an auto aim system and the initial impressions are that the control system is almost perfect however it is once you reach the tougher enemies that you realise that this is not the case. Also the game at times seems to have problems determining where you are shooting. Numerous times we shot at the bomber characters only to not hit them and in turn take damage. However in the games defence, when you do have a 'lock' on an enemy, the reticle changes to show this. The game is also not too tough in terms of health being diminished when being hit and health and armor packs are plentiful throughout.
As can be expected in serious Sam games the enemy ai is really quite poor, and it really is a case of power in numbers more then anything else. They charge towards you intent on killing Sam and take no cover or evasive measures at all but this is what makes the Sam franchise so great. The enemies will be familiar to those who have played the console and pc games such as the bomber characters and skeleton horses. The weapons will also be familiar with chainsaws, tommy guns, shotguns and rocket launchers on offer to take down the various enemies.
As mentioned before the architecture of the game remains constant throughout but does offer an authentic feel to the action. Overall the graphics of the game are quite impressive and despite the fact that some enemies appear like a blob of pixels, many others are highly detailed and easily viewable. The frame rate is a mixed big but overall doesn't affect the gameplay other then the highly noticeable changes. When you are inside buildings the game moves quite smoothly, but in wide areas starts to slow down quite significantly. However in most cases it doesn't affect the ability to shoot enemies. For the sound effects they are really only made up of the gun fire and enemy noises. Those of you with friends who own GBA systems can play multiplayer but the game does not support the single pak option and everyone must have a copy of the game.
Serious Sam Advance is a decent game and a good try at taking the popular franchise across to a portable system. Considering the limitations of the console, Climax have done quite a decent job as the game is playable but inevitably it does suffer from a few problems. However for anyone wanting a game to pack in their pocket for a quick play while traveling then Serious Sam will definitely suffice as just like its predecessors on the PC and PS2 it doesn't involve much strategy and is all about the action.
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