Reviewed: September 24, 2002
Reviewed by: Elias Fixler
Is that an arcade game in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me? Why, that is an arcade game in your pocket.
This, in a nutshell, is the Turok: Evolution for GameBoy Advance experience; that of a genuine coin-op side-scrolling arcade game, the kind we used to plunk our quarters into when the idea of a home system was still a gleam in Nintendo’s eye.
For me, this retro romp back to the days when killing things was all a game needed was quite exhilarating at first, but a bit repetitive and somewhat frustrating later on. Turok is not an overly complex game, but it is difficult, and requires patience to get through the levels. If you don’t mind that, then you’ll discover that Turok is a blast to play.
In 1886, just before a major battle is to be fought between a Native American tribe and a unit of the U.S. Cavalry, the two leaders are mysteriously transported to the “Lost Land”, a darker, more sinister version of Dinotopia with its own war in progress. Once there, Tal’Set, leader of the Indians, joins the kind River People, while Captain Tobias Bruckner of the U.S. Cavalry joins the evil Lord Tyrannus and his “Dinosoid Armies”. A hokey story, I know, but the story is just the excuse for the important stuff, which is killing people-and dinosaurs.
Gameplay is of two varieties. The first is the side-scroller action, which accounts for the majority of the levels. You have a full range of actions; running, jumping, climbing, rolling, crawling, and swinging. There are more than a dozen weapons ranging from basic pistols to rocket launchers, and there are power ups galore and special places to explore (no rhyme intended). Most important, there are tons of enemies just asking to be shot.
The second type of level is the “shooter” area, where you’re looking over your character’s shoulder into the screen, shooting at enemies in front of you, First Person Shooter style.
You can play as one of two fighters Tal’Set, the Indian, or master fencer Djunn. Djunn is easier to play both because he can absorb more damage from enemies, and because his special weapon doubles as a grappling hook which can be used to swing to special areas.
As I said earlier, Turok is not an easy game to play. But the real frustration (and my only major gripe about the game) lies in the dreaded password mode of saving game progress. If you can’t survive to the end of a level to earn not one, but two passwords (level and inventory), you are doomed to repeat the level again.
Graphics on the GameBoy Advance were quite nice. The levels were colorful and varied, and important information (such as health and remaining ammo) was clearly visible on the screen.
Although there was a quite satisfying range of sounds representing the carnage taking place onscreen, alas I am forever spoiled for plain old GBA music, having recently played Aggressive Inline. If you’ve played it, you know what I mean.
Though you can play as two distinct characters, they are not different enough to warrant multiple runs through Turok.
Two Player gaming is available via link cable, but only in cooperative mode. The developers should have had a versus mode as well. And hey, fighting as a dinosaur would have been nice too.
The repetitive nature of Turok, its difficulty, and the ability to save only at specific points with passwords will bother some. But to be fair, Turok: Evolution’s basic side scroller action make it a lot of fun to play, taking us back to kinder, gentler days, when games were simply about killing as many enemies as you can.