Game Boy Advance

Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Burning Earth follows Aang, the titular Airbender, through the events of the second season of the Avatar television show, and it’s made expressly for the fans. Those of us unfamiliar with Aang and his story will have a hard time figuring out what’s going on, who all these people are, what they’re doing, and why. Regardless of whether you follow the show, however, Avatar is pretty, features clever puzzles, delivers a solid action-platform adventure.

The Burning Earth is criminally short, and in order to end on a positive note it ends before the final act of the second season is over. For a game following the show’s plot verbatim this is a big let-down. Combat is a little tedious, but to make up for it the puzzles are clever. Solving them will require using both characters available to the player and each character’s unique talents. There are very few A

Nicktoons: Attack of the Toybots is a platformer that wants very much to be a puzzler. Spongebob Squarepants, Danny Phantom, Jimmy Neutron, Timmy Turner, and Tak all team up to take on Professor Calamitous and his army of evil toys. Attack of the Toybots, as is common with platformers aimed at children, is light on story, and that’s okay. You probably won’t be playing all the way through this game anyhow. It just isn’t fun.

Levels work like this. Run from point A to point B, and beat up deranged toys along the way. In and of itself, this is a sound concept that got us through the 80s. Run around, beat up baddies, and if you were lucky there was a story blurb in the instruction manual. I still play Streets of Rage II to this day, and that’s all it was, but the difference between Attack of the Toybots and classic brawlers is that Attack of the Toybots is designed like a platformer. Combat is unsatisfying and cheap, death is frequent, and enemies just aren’t interesting. The platforming fares little better as it’s extremely common to fall off of ledges, get tagged by a laser beam that you know you jumped over, and get pushed back to the last unmarked checkpoint.

Attack of the Toybots, despite being littered with enemies, isn’t about combat. Most enemy encounters can be bypassed by simply running around or through them. The emphasis here is on level navigation, and it really serves to highlight Attack of the Toybot‘s repetitive level design. Two player cooperative play is available, but with a focus on navigation instead of combat it just feels tacked on. Having a buddy join in doesn’t make platforming easier, and the level navigation sections continue for a long time.

Neither the PS2 nor the GBA are powerhouses of graphics and sound, but Attack of the Toybots just doesn’t stand up to concurrent offerings on either platform. Games aren’t all about graphics and sound, but both the PS2 and GBA are several years old; we should know by now how to get the most out of each system. Sound is also a bit of a letdown. Nickelodeon cartoons are supposed to be funny, but the voice clips found here just don’t feel like the same characters, and they don’t have the same humor.

Nicktoons: Attack of the Toybots is repetitive, bland, and frustrating. If you or somebody you know loves Nickelodeon programming there are better licensed games out there – like Spongebob’s Atlantis Squarepants.


December 4, 2007

Spongebob Squarepants and his good buddy Patrick Starfish begin this adventure by finding pieces of the magical Atlantis Amulet. When the duo have the entire relic assemble a magic bus (no, I am not, in fact, making this up) appears and takes them to the lost city of Atlantis where they, along with Mr. Krabs and Sandy, scour the ruins looking for treasure. If you’ve seen the show you’ll recognize this plot as lifted from an episode of the cartoon. The story frames the game well and gives our heroes a reason to run, jump, and blow bubbles at all manner of features in this two-dimensional platformer.

Atlantis Squarepantis controls well, and each character has a unique attack: Spongebob blows bubbles and Patrick licks foes, for example. Past controlling two characters and being able to switch between them at will, this is standard side-scroller fare. Aside from the platforming Atlantis Squarepantis features a rhythm mini-game in which the player must hit A, B, or the directional pad in time with the music. It’s implemented well, but it’s possible to cheat. The game checks to make sure that A was pressed at the proper time, but completely ignores other inputs received at the same time. Visuals are top-notch and look like they were ripped straight from the cartoon. This is no small feat, especially for the GBA. Everything looks right, and it all has that unique Spongebob Squarepants style to it.

It should come as no surprise that Spongebob’s Atlantis Squarepantis is an easy game. It’s aimed at children that would like a little extra Spongebob in their day. Unfortunately, the game is also short and lacking in replay value. If your little one really needs a yellow, rectangular buddy and the only gaming system available is the GBA then Atlantis Squarepantis will do the trick, but don’t expect it to occupy anybody for long.

he Game Boy Advance refuses to die, and games like Spider-Man 3 and TMNT are excellent reasons that all gamers should rally around the little handheld and hold it up as a shining example of portable gaming done right. Spider-Man’s foray into the world of the Game Boy Advance is a completely different experience than any of the consoles or other portables offer. And it has to be; the GBA has been around a long time. It has less buttons than the DS and PSP, and it’s certainly less powerful, but given the right developer – Vicarious Visions in this case – and a solid gameplay concept, a good game is easy to make.

If you’ve played any of the console versions of Spider-Man 3, then you know how complex his move set is and how difficult it can be to remember what button (combination) does what. Thankfully, the GBA version doesn’t include every move that Spidey has ever performed on the big screen. Jump with A, and hit A again while in the air to swing on a web. Punch thugs with B, and hold R while pressing B to kick. Shoot webs at enemies with R. As the game goes on, Spider-Man learns a few new moves (press up to shoot a web on the ceiling or hold up while pressing B to perform an uppercut), but they’re largely unnecessary, and I’m glad that they are. This time around Spider-Man is less about fighting and more about rescuing people from burning buildings, disarming bombs (by punching them!) and thwarting bosses using his brain vice his brawn (defeat the Mad Bomber by webbing his bombs to his hand, for example).

The game tries to follow the plot of the movie, but like its bigger brothers, the GBA version features plenty else to do and many characters that don’t show up in the film. This is a welcome change as I’d much rather be saving civilians than talking to Mary Jane on a bridge. Sure, it makes for decent cinema, but I don’t play superhero games to pretend I’m them and woo their girlfriend; I play them to use their superpowers and look and feel like a badass doing it. Spider-Man 3 for the GBA delivers on that front, and it looks good while doing it. Animations are fluid, characters are recognizable, and the whole package is great fun. The game is a bit on the short side, but it has the same charm that SNES games had- that quality that kept us coming back for more and replaying Turtles in Time even though we’d already beaten it a dozen times.

Spider-Man 3 is fun, and for a platform that is six years old and, by all rights and privileges, should have been replaced by the DS, that’s enough. If you’re looking for a superhero game that’s light on story and heavy on fun, then Spider-Man 3 on the GBA is an easy purchase.

It’s hard to believe that Final Fantasy, the most inappropriately-named RPG series in history, is picking up as much steam as it currently is, regardless of the overwhelming critical success of the recent Final Fantasy XII. Final Fantasy VI Advance marks the fourth A