Having finished the Game Boy Color Army Men games (except for the spin-off, Portal Runner), I decided to move on to the Game Boy Advance games beginning with Army Men Advance. I've got a lot of mixed feelings about this game. On the one hand, it's probably the best of the handheld games I've played thus far from an objective point of view. On the other hand, it's probably the entry most likely to upset fans of the series. It's a mixed bag, for sure.
The basics of the story is that in order to foil a Tan plan to take over both the plastic world and the human world, you must allow yourself to be captured by the Tan and then break out of a prison camp in their base. You can play as either Sergeant Hawk or Vikki Grimm, but the levels are exactly the same; the difference is little more than a costume. Throughout the course of the game, you end up having to rescue a few of Sarge's commandos, fight aliens, and kill a mole. Not like a spy, like a literal yard rodent. It's...weird. I'm not sure I'd say it's bad, per se, but it's definitely weird.
Mechanically, it's definitely the best of the five handheld Army Men games that I've played. Movement is fluid, aiming to attack is never difficult, and I never got stuck on invisible corners of objects. I almost never experienced any slowdown, and the difficulty was pretty fairly balanced. Unfortunately, the aesthetic of the game is just...odd. It doesn't look or feel like an Army Men game. The series has never been known or realistic or mature visuals, but this game just feels overly juvenile and cartoon-y. Character sprites are big, the faces are just goofy, and that mole...that mole looks like something out of one of these low-budget-looking (but bizarrely fairly well funded) cartoons that Cartoon Network is putting out these days. It's not what folks who are used to fighting villains like Major Mylar, General Plastro, and Dr. Madd would expect. Again, it's not bad, for this to be the look of the first Game Boy Advance game in the series doesn't make the best first impression.
The game spans 12 levels - 11 plus a final boss - and there's a good variety of locales across those levels to keep things from getting stale. The music is almost non-existent. There's no background music during the levels, and the only sound effects are gunshots, Tan death screams, and the occasional explosion. It's disappointing that the earliest of the Game Boy Color games had a decent array of digitized voice lines, but the earliest of the Game Boy Advance games can't even be bothered with background music.
Army Men Advance is very much a mixed bag. Folks unfamiliar with the Army Men series or neutral to it would probably think this was a decent albeit mediocre game. Serious fans of the series, however, will likely think it feels odd and out of place. It's fun for a casual playthrough, but it doesn't capture the feel or style of the PC or PS1/N64 Army Men games at all, and that style far more than the gameplay is what attracts me to the Army Men series. It's not that expensive last I checked, so pick it up if you're a fan of the system or the series, but as with the other handheld entries, don't bother if you're not.
My Rating - 3 Neps
I'm a teacher.
And I like to play video games. I like to collect video games. I like to talk about video games, and I like to write about video games. During the day, I teach high school history; during the night, I spend my spare time gaming. Then I write about it.