Reviewed: September 16, 2002
Released: August 31, 2002
Did you ever wonder if Tony Hawk or Dave Mirra came home after a day’s workout and played their respective games on Game Boy Advance? Or even stranger, played each other’s Games? Did you ever wonder if playing an “Extreme Sport” game on a GBA counts as an Extreme Sport? Me neither.
Most of us will never skate like Tony or ride like Dave (probably because most of us are sitting on our butts in front of the computer, reading inane game reviews instead of practicing out in the fresh air and getting some healthy exercise). So most of us will live vicariously through our console and handheld game systems.
The newest addition to GBA's extreme sports category is Aggressive Inline (AI), developed for Acclaim by Full Fat. Those of you who have played the PS2, XBox, or GameCube versions of AI should note that this is not a handheld version of that console hit, but rather something a bit different.
Aggressive Inline is played as a series of levels, or ‘runs’. Each run has several challenging tasks, which must be accomplished within a certain time limit in order to beat the level. There are a variety of tasks, such as acquiring objects or performing specific maneuvers.
There are two major differences between the Game Boy Advance version of AI and the console versions. The first is in the play environment. While the PS2, Xbox, and GameCube all featured large open ended areas which could be altered, giving a free-play type feel to the game, the GBA edition has smaller, tighter ‘courses’ which with the time limit force the player to be more focused on completing the challenges.
The second big change from the consoles is the inclusion of the Grind Meter. This meter fills when you perform flips and other air tricks, and depletes when you do grinds. You can’t grind when the meter is empty. This emphasis on grinds, along with the exclusion of some of the console moves, means that although the trick system is basically the same, the skaters move with a different rhythm than one might be used to from the consoles.
Despite these differences, AI is well-paced and fun to play, though it can be a bit difficult in spots.
The visuals, as one would expect, are presented in an isometric view, and AI looks at least as good as similar titles for the GBA, though nothing that will set a new standard for the handheld. Considering as always the Game Boy’s small screen size and other limitations as compared to the consoles, it didn’t take as long as one might think to “feel the course”, in other words to get the feel of your controls and the sense of how they relate to what’s happening onscreen.
Now this is where Aggressive Inline does set a new standard for GBA games, it sports the same licensed soundtrack as the console versions. Jumps, grabs, and grinds are performed to the sounds of P.O.D., Saliva, The Vandals, The Ataris ( hhmmm- console geeks? ) and others. The songs are shortened versions in order to take up less space on the cartridge, but this is still a sweet soundtrack for a handheld.
Aggressive Inline uses tried and true methods to keep things interesting. By providing some skaters and locales at the start, and unlocking others as the player improves, the game is kept fresh even after you’ve played it awhile. The different game characters have their own play styles and improve over time, allowing for longer combos and higher scores.
Multiplayer allows two adversaries to compete via link cable in any of three different contests: highest score, highest scoring trick combo, or most tricks in a single combo. Linkup is something we wanted, but didn’t get for Dave Mirra BMX2 on the GBA, also by Full Fat. It’s nice see the developers go the extra step for this title.
If you love Tony Hawk (the game that is, not the guy), you will undoubtedly enjoy Aggressive Inline. (If you love Tony Hawk, the guy, then this game can’t help you.)
For Game Boy Advance, this is a top-notch entry in the Extreme Sports category, with a kickin’ soundtrack to boot. Just don’t expect a console game squeezed into your GBA, and you won’t be disappointed.
This brings up an interesting question: Should Full Fat have tried to more closely duplicate the console experience for the handheld? Though many readers feel the answer is “yes”, I for one think that the game might have otherwise fallen short. The way things stand, most players can justify owning both the console and handheld versions of Aggressive Inline. The fast paced play and tight courses in this version are suitable (in my opinion) to a ‘Game Boy state of mind’.
Look for a feature article on this question to appear in Game Chronicles shortly. I’ll contact Full Fat and other developers experienced in both console and handheld game design, and report on what exactly influences their design decisions when porting titles from consoles to handhelds.
In the meantime, I’d like to hear your opinions on this or any aspect of consoles vs. handhelds. F’rinstance, do you think there’s too many twitch games and not enough thinking games for the Game Boy Advance?
Let me know, and I’ll let the world know. Who knows, game developers and publishers just might listen.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Email me at email@example.com