GT Advance 2: Rally Racing

Quick Take - handheld racer returns with a save game system, but not much else

GT Retreat more like

Password save systems were the bane of every 16-bit gamer's existence, besmirching the reputation of a number of otherwise truly respectable adventures throughout the ages. Thankfully the advent of CD-based consoles and memory cards quickly and quietly put this menace to bed, but the coming of the GameBoy Advance helped it to manifest itself once again in the shape of 16-bit ports and SNES-style games, and GT Advance was a prime example. The good news is that the sequel has appeared in the West complete with its Japanese battery backup save system. The bad news is that recycling the same old game in a rally guise just won't work these days, especially with V-Rally 3 on the market.

GT Advance 2 is packed with content - 15 cars, 14 stages, 42 tracks and a whole seven game modes to string them all together, including a handy link cable mode - but a number of bad design decisions constrain it and conspire to spoil the experience. For instance, the game offers you the option to tweak your car settings, and yet the arcade approach negates this entirely. The designers have included small hills and bumps, but the Mode 7 graphics engine is the same as the original's, and it all smacks of scotch tape and botched solutions to a flat racing dynamic. And while V-Rally 3's almost 3D courses are packed with polygonal scenery and agreeable visuals, GT Advance 2's are not.

There are some license tests to complete before you get into the action, and these are a good way to get to grips with the game, but while they take some time to complete, they are unfairly balanced against the player. The requirements for the S Class for instance are ludicrous, and having your whole run discounted just because you slipped one tyre over the edge of the track is daft. Elsewhere, the rest of the single player game is unadventurously designed, the AI is a bit too consistent, and although the menus and presentation is generally acceptable, weak engine noises pale in comparison to those in V-Rally 3, and the music wouldn't be too amiss in an elevator.

Conclusion

GT Advance 2 singularly fails to introduce anything new to the handheld racing genre, or even to its own burgeoning series. It's a nicely made game in places, but graphics, sound and design aren't up to the same quality as V-Rally 3 and the gameplay lacks the same depth. It feels less like a new game than GT Advance with a proper save system, and we wanted that last year, not now.

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