Mike Sklens takes a bullet for PGC's readers with his review of Army Men Advance...
The Army Men franchise started out in the Real-Time Strategy genre, and has since evolved into an action series. The idea of most of the new Army Men games is simply to complete the missions to win the game. You control your little plastic soldier and fight the evil Tan army. It really is a brilliant idea at the core as so many people have played with those little green pieces of plastic; it just makes sense to turn them into a video game. But there’s been a certain something that has been missing from a majority of the Army Men games that keeps them from truly shining as individuals. Instead they all come off as very similar.
Army Men Advance thus fits perfectly in the group with the rest of the Army Men titles. In Army Men Advance you can take control of either Sarge or Vikki. It doesn't matter which you pick. The only thing it changes is the sprite on the screen. The beginning of the game starts off a bit slow, but later on a little bit more variety is thrown in which helps a bit. Unfortunately, overall the game is just boring, the gameplay is stale, the graphics are dull, and the sound is utter garbage.
The game looks OK, though it certainly isn't up to par with some of the other Game Boy Advance titles. It is a first generation game, but compared to some of the other titles it looks like it came out even earlier than them. The characters have a cartoony look, with curvy lines and bright colors. The levels are styled in a similar manner. The areas in Army Men Advance are split into two types: They are either real world environments that one would expect to see real people in, or they are the world viewed through a toy's eyes with giant tennis balls and other similar surroundings. This mix has never worked for me. 3DO should just pick one kind of environment and stick to it. Preferably the world of toy's environment, it just makes more sense that way. There are some serious problems with these graphics though. They just look plain awful, almost as if they were thrown together at the last minute. There is no detail on the characters at all. Vikki, for example, looks deformed. Her face is all crammed together and he eyes are little more than black dots. The levels are extremely sparse. There are times when it is only your character on the screen and nothing else. There will be no other enemies, and no environment to speak of at all. I cannot stress how much of a problem that is. On an up note, the game, thankfully, animates smoothly. There isn't any slowdown to speak of, not even in a fire-fight with 8 enemies on the screen. This is probably due to the fact that the game's graphics are so low quality that it would take a hell of stuff going on to slow them down.
While the graphics are average-to-bad, the sound, on the other hand, is one hundred percent awful. It's not that the sound itself are terribly bad, it's that there is almost no sound in the game. The sound effects are pretty stinky. The gun has an odd twang sound to it that doesn't sound anything like a gun. The single biggest problem with the sound, however, is that total lack of music in the game. It would be quiet as a mouse if it weren't for the cheap sound effects and the occasional fanfare jingle when you complete a level. There is, however, a sound menu. But the only thing it lets you do is turn the sound on and off, since there is no background music to listen to.
The controls are average. They let you do just about a minimum of what you should be able to do, plus a tiny bit more. The D-pad moves your character up, down, left, and right, around the level. The A button fires your primary weapon, and the B button throws a grenade. L cycles through weapons, and you can hold R to strafe. The controls are responsive and don't really mess up often. The strafe function is quite useful. You can use it to stay facing the same direction and side-step to your left or right, which is helpful when trying to keep the enemy in the line of fire and trying to stay out of the line of fire. There is no option to change the controls around though, which would have been a nice feature.
Rounding out the overall lack of quality, the gameplay in Army Men Advance is rather boring too. There are 2 types of levels: the run-around-and-kill-everything levels and the go-around-in-your-vehicle-and-get-to-the-other-side levels. In the first type of level, you complete the objectives while trying not to get killed. The objectives are pretty basic. Most of them consist of "find item X" or "get to place X" and then "get to the end of the level" The thing is, it's not that easy to be killed unless you're trying. One can approach the game gung-ho style and run through killing everything and not take a lot of damage along the way, which kills any challenge the game may have possessed whatsoever.
In the vehicle levels you follow a straightforward path and kill stuff in your way. It is extremely monotonous. The vehicle has a constant forward motion and you can move it left and right with the D-pad and move the vehicle's cannon side to side with the L and R buttons. In theory, there is supposed to be a sense of urgency, because you have to get rid of the enemies up ahead before you reach them. But, by simply turning the vehicle to the side and running it up against the walls of the level, you stop your motion, giving you all the time in the world to get rid of the enemies in front of you. Also, the cannon moves way too swiftly and the controls for it are not finite enough, making it a total pain and chore to try and hit some of the targets.
The biggest problem in terms of gameplay has got to be the AI. It is absolutely abysmal! The enemy can see you right through the walls. They will stand directly opposite you on the other side of the wall and follow you if you move along the wall. This creates the ultimate ambush opportunity for them. You walk through the door, and they know where you are at all times and shoot you. There are a few moments of variety scattered throughout the game though. In some levels you can control a special character that has a different weapon such as a rocket launcher or a flame-thrower. But the gameplay is exactly the same, only the weapon and character sprite are different.
There isn’t a whole lot of replay value in Army Men Advance. You don't get anything extra for completing stages with special requirements or anything similar to that, such as Goldeneye did. Plus, the game uses passwords to save progress, which is just plain awful. After playing this game I have no desire to ever play it again. There is no multiplayer mode in the game either. A little deathmatch mode would have been nice to include.
Army Men Advance is a run of the mill game. It offers nothing new to its series or genre. The graphics are drab and boring. The sound is almost not there at all, and the sound that is there if pitiful. The controls work well, thankfully. The gameplay is boring and very monotonous. There is almost no replay value in this title at all; it becomes incredibly stale long before you finish it. If you're a fan of the Army Men series and liked the other games, chances are you'll like Army Men Advance. If you just want a game to pick up and play, Army Men might be the choice for you, though you'd probably be better off with something else. But if you want a truly solid and awesome game, go somewhere else.