reviews\ Nov 19, 2001 at 7:00 pm

Doom - GBA - Review

Last summer, Activision and David A. Palmer Productions announced that they'd be bringing Doom to the Game Boy Advance at some point in the fall. I didn't think too much of the announcement at the time, given how far off the game seemed and the fact that it was only a port. That's where I was wrong. Yes, it was more than a few months away, but it was not "only a port." Like Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, Doom received the extra-special Game Boy Advance treatment with more features than the original.

Activision is a genius. Since the Game Boy Advance unit doesn't have any exterior brightness controls, David A. Palmer Productions included a feature within the game that allows you to brighten Doom's naturally dark corridors. This makes the entire game brighter. The levels go from too dark to see, to highly visible with just the press of a button. If you prefer to squint while playing your GBA, you can make the game darker than its default setting (which is really dark). Though I'm not sure why you'd want to make it so dark, the developers included the feature anyway. Either way, the brightness controls are brilliant. I don't care if it makes the colors look a little washed out. Every Game Boy Advance game should have this feature (except for Klonoa and Mario, which are both unusually bright). Take note of this, Majesco...

There are also two different lighting styles to choose from: Dynamic and Static. Dynamic is dark, but looks great in the lighter parts of the levels. In the darker parts, however, it's almost too dark to see anything. If it weren't for the map, navigating would be extremely difficult. You can turn up the brightness of the game, but then the Dynamic lighting begins to look a lot like the Static lighting. The difference in detail is minimal. As long as the brightness is turned up high enough so that you can actually see what you're doing, there's never a problem. It's like Resident Evil. Most gamers have to brighten their TVs before the game is visible enough to play, which inevitably takes away from the richness of the gorgeous graphics. This bugs me at first, but after a while, I get used to the brighter colors and begin to appreciate the game's graphical beauty anyway. The same goes for Doom.

I cannot believe how fast Doom moves on the Game Boy Advance! There is never a drop in the framerate -- Doom's unforgettable intensity and speed is consistent throughout the entire game. The texturing of the backgrounds and the way they are presented truly gives you the illusion that you're playing a 3D game. Just a few months ago I was amazed by Klonoa: Empire of Dreams and all of its colorful effects. The characters were pretty detailed, featuring smoother animation than most games available on the GBA. Never in a million years did I think I would go from that -- to this -- in less than six months. Portable gaming has evolved a lot this year. It feels like 1993 and 1994 all over again, when gamers got their first taste of 3D gaming on a home console. Big things are on the horizon. Activision already has and will no doubt continue to lead the way to the next generation of portable gaming. Doom is only just the beginning.

Doom's classic gameplay mechanics have not been ruined by the GBA's limited amount of buttons. The D-pad is used to move forward and backward and turn left or right, while the L and R buttons allow you to strafe. The B button is multi-functional. Press it near unlocked doors to open them or activate switches. Hold down the B button while moving to run. Getting from one end of a corridor to the other is a breeze, literally. You move so fast, it's almost like you're flying. I know this game isn't pushing any polygons, but I'm still thoroughly impressed by how quickly it moves. Castlevania is a great game and all, but it moves very, very slow, as do most of the GBA games. Doom's speed is unprecedented. Mario Kart is a racing game and even it doesn't move as fast as Doom.

If you bought a Game Boy Advance for fun and excitement, then you must not live without Doom. Heck, if you bought a GBA just because your friends did, you still should not live without Doom. There have been a lot of great games worth praising this year, but none of them are nearly as exciting as Doom. I don't think I've ever been this enthusiastic about a game before, especially a first-person shooter. Doom has always been my favorite FPS though, and now it's back and better than ever. Grab a link cable and pick up a copy of Doom as soon as you can. It doesn't disappoint.

#Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 8.9
Hands down, this is the best action game ever made for a portable system. It is really amazing to be able to play one of the greatest, no, THE greatest first-person shooter of all time on a game system that can be taken anywhere! The Game Boy Advance has finally entered the realm of next-generation gaming. Let the innovation begin!

Graphics: 8.9 
This must be the year of eye candy. Because every system has at least one game with some kind of special effect that's never been done before. Doom is the Game Boy Advance's greatest achievement. It has brought a 2D system, that at times felt like nothing more than a portable SNES, into the third dimension. Doom was ported to the SNES too, but it wasn't released until the system had already been out a while. Even so, I never thought that such a game would be possible on the GBA without making sacrifices. No sacrifices were made though. David A. Palmer Productions did an excellent job of recreating Doom for the GBA.

Sound: 8
Cartridges, especially the puny ones used for Game Boy Advance, are very limited on space. So it's understandable that David A. Palmer Productions would skimp on the music to ensure that there was enough good gameplay inside. But the company did no such things. The GBA's poor stereo speaker prevents you from fully experiencing Doom's awesome soundtrack, but if you have a good set of headphones, the sound quality improves. Either way though, it's obvious that the compositions are high-quality tunes composed by a very talented individual.

Difficulty: 7
By first-person shooter standards, Doom is moderately difficult. By the standards of your typical Game Boy Advance game though, Doom is quite a challenge. The play mechanics haven't changed at all since this IS the original game. Kill some enemies, find a key, open a door and repeat. It sounds like a shallow experience, but there's more depth here than meets the eye.

Concept: 8 
It didn't take a rocket scientist to come up with the idea to port Doom to the Game Boy Advance. But it did take more than a few skilled game developers to do it right. Actually, they did it better than right. The multiplayer modes are awesome. Two players can team up and beat the game together, or four players can kill each other in the ultimate deathmatch.

Multiplayer: 8
Finally, a true FPS on the Game Boy Advance! Complete with REAL multiplayer gaming. Doom laughs in the face of the competition. No fighting, racing, puzzle or action game on the GBA is as entertaining as Doom. Like first-person shooters on the PC, Doom gives each player their own personal screen. Split-screen gaming is a thing of the past (for Doom, at least).

Overall: 8.5
It's been a long time since I've played a Doom game. I'm so glad that I got to experience the original game all over again before the release of Doom 3. This was a classic game on the PC and PSone and now it's a classic on the Game Boy Advance. Wolfenstein may have been the game that started the genre, but it was Doom who defined it. Doom was the game that made people take the genre seriously. If you're a first-person shooter enthusiast or just a fan of action games in general, you owe it to yourself to pick up Doom.


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