Army Men Advance
Once more, it’s the green toy soldiers against the tan toy soldiers, in an effort to save both human and toy civilization. Playing as either Sarge or Vikki G., players attempt to thwart the plans of that dastardly villain, Plastro. Will they make it across the bathroom alive?
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
Starting a new game, you will select either Vikki G. or Sarge, which as far as I can tell is merely a cosmetic change as the levels seem to play the exact same way no matter which character you choose. The levels basically amount to running around the toy themed environments, defeating bad guys and completing missions. At the beginning of each level you will get a synopsis of the story (which is mostly confusing) and then a list of objectives. The objectives may include finding the keys to a door, unlocking a coded prison cell (in the shape of a Simon toy) or just making it to the end of the level alive. To break up any monotony, a few special missions are implemented, where you drive vehicles, play as rescued characters, and even jump on floating logs, Frogger-style. The small puzzle elements of the game are enjoyable, and the difficulty level is neither off-putting nor easy (with three difficulty levels to choose from).
One small annoyance is that since the levels are quite large and many of them feature several objectives, when you get killed, starting again at the very beginning of the level can be frustrating. Another thing that Army Men Adavance (AMA) has against it is the password system. When you pass a stage, you are given a password you must use to be able to start from that same stage when you play again later. This is frustrating enough in a console game, but ten times as much in a portable game. Having to find somewhere to write the password down when you’re out on the town isn’t fun. A saved game memory would have been much better.
Unlike the photo-realistic graphics of past Army Men games, AMA features cartoony characters, but that actually seem to fit the system a lot better. The large, colorful, characters make them easier to spot on the Game Boy Advance’s small screen, and trying to match the style of the other games in the series probably would have only looked muddled. There is a lot of variety in the themes of the levels, but unfortunately the levels themselves seem rather sparse. The bedroom, for instance, features blocks and toy trains lying around the floor, but there are still large spaces where everything is one solid color. Not only is this boring to look at, but it makes it difficult to tell where you are going. Super Mario Advance has shown us what can be done with this little system, and has thus raised our expectations. So much more could have been done with Army Men Advance, but knowing 3DO’s track record this is probably only the first in a series of Army Men GBA games.
The music is neither exciting nor Spartan, but merely efficient. The little tunes that play at the beginning hint at the GBA’s audio capabilities, but they are never really explored. The sound effects do their best to become repetitive, like the constant grunt of the tan soldiers for an example, but it never becomes too annoying, forcing you to turn the sound off.
In all honesty, I wasn’t expecting a lot from Army Men Advance, considering the fact that the plethora of Army Men games so far have been generally disappointing. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that AMA works well and is a good bit of fun. The lack of a save game option and the sparse backgrounds bring the score down a little, but if you can cope with those problems, there is a lot to like in this action/puzzle game. I give it a 73.