SpyHunter – GBA – Review

International is at it again, looking to take over the world in typical bad
guy/antichrist style.  Anyone who has ever played Spy Hunter knows that this
game is all about the action, not the story, but Midway went to the trouble of
including a plot for the game anyway.  Daemon Curry, President of Nostra
International, is a man who is connected in the highest of places within every
world government, and even has unimaginable power within the church.  The
internal business mantra for Nostra International is “Fire will fall from the
sky, rivers will run red with blood, and a war unlike any the world has seen
will unleash the four horsemen unto earth”, it has a certain ring to it don’t
you think?  But IES (International Espionage Services) sees this as more than
just a guy trying to make a buck and in response to Nostra’s impending plans IES
has assembled a team known as SPYHUNTER.  But will the tricked out G-6155
Interceptor automobile be enough to put a stop to Nostra’s dastardly


Gameplay is not
unlike that of its console counterparts, its just miniaturized and modified to
work within the boundaries of the (comparatively) lowly GBA.  The transition
into a 3D world has proven to work well for SpyHunter in the past and the GBA
version is no exception; gameplay dynamics remain close enough to the original
while providing enough innovation so that it is appealing to a new generation of
gamers.  Expect to run into some old foes like bulletproof vans and
switchblades, the onslaught of enemy gunfire can at times however be
overwhelming.  Add that to the fact that damage can be inflicted to your car
simply by bumping into the side of a road or object and you’ve got a G-6155
Interceptor that is far too finicky to be considered a viable solution to


Most of the levels
have objectives that require you to destroy designated objects, activate sat-coms,
and navigate checkpoints.  Objectives are split into two categories: Primary and
Secondary.  Primary objectives must be completed in order to progress while
secondary goals are optional.  Thanks to Spy Hunter’s 3D universe you are no
longer forced to move ahead through each level, rather you have the option of
backtracking in order to complete objectives that you might have otherwise
missed.  The only limitation to exploration is the fact that you only get a set
amount of time before you have to restart the level (4-10 minutes.)  Luckily,
the game includes a crazy taxi-esque arrow pointer that gives you a good idea
where you should go next.


Controlling the
G-6155 Interceptor is easy enough, ‘A’ is for accelerate, ‘B’ breaks, R-trigger
shoots, pushing L-trigger will switch between weapons and hitting the L and R
triggers at the same time will activate defensive weapons like smoke-screens and
oil slicks.  You can lock on to enemies if you have guided missiles, pressing up
on the control pad will switch between targets.  Overall, SpyHunter GBA does a
good job of recreating the gameplay found in its console brethren, right down to
the detail of quick-turns that are accomplished by turning with the brake
smashed down.  You will also have access to an assortment of 10 different types
of weapons, which include but are not limited to Guided Missiles, Swarmer
Missiles, EMP Gun, Rail Gun, and a Plasma Cannon. 


The game includes
3 main modes (an arcade mode which can be unlocked): Normal Agent, Special
Agent, and Super Agent.  Normal Agent is the default mode and allows you to
control the Interceptor through set objectives, collect power-ups, and unlock
new features.  In Special Agent you’ll be able to refine your driving and
shooting skills, this mode will let you play through the same levels as Normal
Agent but without the added pressure of Nostra enemies breathing down your
back.  The objectives in this mode usually consist of such wacky objectives as
‘run over as many chickens as you can!’  Super Agent is basically like Normal
Agent mode but the Nostra enemies are far stronger.  And lastly, but not leastly,
is Arcade Mode.  Arcade Mode unfortunately is not the original arcade
version emulated on the GBA, but it is a (read: lackluster) 3D recreation of
it.  You’ll race down an endless road destroying enemies while accumulating
points, this mode will not become available until you have completed all the
primary objectives in Normal Agent Mode.


Spy hunter GBA
actually does a respectable job of recreating its console counterparts
graphically, the atmosphere is rendered in true 3D form and is texture mapped,
not unlike early Playstation games.  Unfortunately the G-6155 itself is
comprised of 2D graphics, which is necessary to make the car look as detailed as
it is.  For the most part Midway did a damn fine job in the visual department
for this game.  I mean obviously the transitions between the land to water
vehicles don’t look nearly as cool as they do in their 128-bit form but when
taking the limitations of the GBA into consideration its apparent that the
developers succeeded in a lot of way of recreating the spy hunter experience for
the handheld market.


Not all is bright
and rosy for this game’s visuals however, at times textures in the game are so
dark that objects blend right into the background, the included brightness
control is no help at all in these instances.  Not being able to see where you
are going results in constant collision with the atmosphere, which in turn
results in loss of precious health.  This is simply unacceptable.


SpyHunter leaves little to be desired, all the obligatory SpyHunter theme
remixes are in attendance and the game also includes sharp digitized voice-clips
from your car that will alert you to energy critical situations and also mission
objectives.  Each stage will have its own unique musical soundtrack that is
actually quite fitting to the overall feel of the game.  Likewise, sound effects
are more then adequate, everything down to the screeching of tires when turning
on particularly nasty corners can be heard.


There is also a
multiplayer link-mode, to play in 2-player mode you’ll need two Game Paks, which
is unfortunate because it is rare that a friend will take a chance on the same
middle-of-the-road game as you did.  But the multiplayer components are not much
to write home about anyway, there is no racing or equally appropriate 2-player
challenges.  They consist only of attempting to activate the most sat-coms or
destroying the most enemies.


What all this
boils down to is a game that while graphically impressive, fails to deliver on
the goods.  Level design is boring, collision detection is downright shoddy, and
the inability to see where you’re going on some water based levels is simply
ridiculous.  In all fairness though, SpyHunter GBA does have its moments and if
you have a friend that owns this game I’m sure it would help to offset some of
the issues found within the main game. 


Scoring Details

Gameplay: 7.7
Maneuvering your
car while activating sat-coms and firing weapons is very simple, gameplay isn’t
the problem with this title.  The level objectives tend to be a bit generic and
the level design is incredibly boring.  Too many variables in this game
contribute to damaging your car, progressing is simply a matter of memorizing
what is where and being able to avoid an onslaught of enemy gunfire.

Graphics: 8.1
texture-mapped 3D graphics on a GBA game?  Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about! 
Lets hope that future GBA games follow suit.  There are some visual problems
with SpyHunter however, like the incredibly dark color palette that all but
makes the atmosphere invisible to the naked eye in some stages.

Sound: 7.6
Midway got the
job done in the sound department, musical tracks are adequately appealing, sound
effects were not overlooked, and the digitized voice-clips from Leonie are quite
impressive.  The remixed Spy Hunter themes are starting to grow stale however.

Difficulty: Medium
Here is a game
that is a prime example of difficulty being the fault of shoddy level design. 
In some instances the game is quite hard, but not because your reflexes aren’t
fast enough or because you blinked, but because you don’t know where your
supposed to go or what your supposed to do, or in some instances you don’t even
know where you can go since you can’t see anything.

Concept: 5 
Nope, sorry,
conceptually this game is based on a game that is based on another game. 
Rehashed isn’t the right word but it’s the first word that comes to mind. 

Multiplayer: 6.7

There is a
multiplayer component but since the extent of what it offers is to simply allow
2 players to play the normal old game at the same time with the winner being the
person who kills the most enemies or activates the most sat-coms, it is hardly
worth mentioning.


Overall: 7.2

SpyHunter is a
game with a lot of potential that it simply fails to live up to.  All the
correct ingredients are there: tricked out car, world domination plot, and
high-speed action.  But sadly, Midway overlooked a few too many issues before
they green-lighted this game.  Collision detection problems, too dark color
palette, and boring objectives are the main problems.  However, even a jaded
reviewer like myself can find a lot to like with SpyHunter, like the hours upon
hours of potential game time, super slick graphics, and various modes of play. 
Overall I am gonna recommend this title, but don’t expect it to live up to the
expectation created by its console counterparts.