When people come up with games which are a must own on the GBA they all seem to be from the houses of Nintendo and their franchises such as Pokemon and Zelda, but with the release of Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto for the Gameboy Advance that could possibly change. Although Rockstar did not develop the game themselves, Digital Eclipse seem to have done a fairly solid job, although it does have some problems which keep it from being a must own as many people may have predicted.
The storyline behind the game is as follows. Vinnie and Mike are about to leave Liberty City and quit the crime game forever after becoming extremely rich. The Mafia task Vinnie with one last job before he leaves which proves to be fatal mistake leaving Mike to find out who did this to him and why. Beginning the life of crime over again, Mike must work his way up through the food chain of the Liberty City crime scene and find out exactly who did it and get his revenge for his mate.
As you have probably guessed, you play the role of Mike performing these missions for various characters and finding out more information as to who killed Vinnie. Keeping with the PS2 version of Grand Theft Auto III's Liberty City, you can freely roam around where ever you want to without worrying about missions if you so desire, but to progress further and unlock more of the map the missions must be completed. The missions you take on vary quite a bit but those who have played through GTA3 will definitely recognise a trend.
Digital Eclipse seem to have more than borrowed content from the GTA3 PS2 game and remade it into a 2D GBA game. There is nothing wrong with this but for those who have played through the PS2 game it may feel as if they are just playing the same story with a few changes and a few new characters. Many of the missions such as taking out particular people feel like they have been copied from the PS2 game and even the layout of the City has been which is to be expected considering the game is set in Liberty City. Forty one missions are included for the storyline which is quite a significant number. One thing which puzzles us however is that the prologue missions, before the storyline begins, are actually quite difficult in comparison to the first five or so you play during the actual storyline.
Other than that the typical gameplay from GTA3 is really what the game is all about. Completing missions, driving to ammunation and buying weapons or completing side tasks such as collecting 100 packages or something which is new for the GBA version, a street racing side mission where you can win money driving around the city circuits quickly. The weapons on offer are pretty much directly taken from the PS2 game as well. Initially you will only be able to buy small time weapons but further on rocket launchers etc become available from the games shops.
To help find things easier an on screen map is included but this is one of the more disappointing aspects of the game. It is transparent so sometimes is blocked by an object on the screen and also does not take into account the bridges which feature in the game, leading you to sometimes hit a wall when the map shows there is actually a road which turns out to be a bridge.
In terms of graphics the game is actually fairly impressive for a GBA title. It may be played in two dimensions, but even so it features quite a bit of detail. The only thing you miss out on in the two dimension format is landmarks which can help you find out where you are that you can do in the PS2 version of GTA3.
Grand Theft Auto Advance is a decent attempt to bring GTA3 to the small screen for people wanting to play it on the go. If you go in with a mindset of finding a 2D version of GTA3 with a few small problems you will probably enjoy the game.