Small But Perfectly Malformed
id Software have a reputation for pushing the latest graphics technology to the limit. Take Doom, for example. When it first came out I had a 12Mhz 386, and to get the game to run smoothly I had to reduce the area of the screen which it actually rendered to the size of a credit card. Flash forward to 2001. Doom has arrived on the GameBoy Advance, and some things never change - the game is still pushing technology to the very limit, the picture is still the size of a credit card, and the hardware is still struggling to keep up. Doom is probably the most graphically impressive title that we have seen so far on the GBA. It may lack the gaudy colours and crystal clarity of Rayman Advance, but it makes up for this with detailed texturing and sprites which are lifted almost pixel-for-pixel from the original PC version of the game, although sadly the blood has been replaced by Nintendo-friendly green gore. The weapons in particular are beautifully rendered and animated, with the full selection on offer from brass knuckles and pistol all the way up to rocket launcher and room-clearing BFG. The eerie sound effects and cheesy MIDI music stylings of Bobby Prince have also been beautifully transferred, and classic noises like the roaring of imps and the awful ripping sound as they claw at your flesh all add to the atmosphere of the game. Unfortunately two things haven't made it on to the GameBoy though - the all-important boss monsters. Although episode two still ends well even without a cyberdemon to scare the bejeezus out of you, the final map is something of an anti-climax. Gone is the giant robotic spider, and in its place are two rooms full of monsters and ammunition followed by some pointless unlocking of doors to reach the exit. The last few levels of Doom were always the weakest, with an over-reliance on pools of lava, cramped mazes and teleporter puzzles, and the revamped last level just makes this even more of a disappointing end to a great game.
Knee Deep In The Dead
Otherwise the original twenty four levels have been recreated faithfully for the most part, with only a few obvious changes, none of which harm the flow of the game. Having said that, a couple of the maps could really have used more drastic editing. Mount Erebus in particular suffers from terrible slowdowns in a few places, and although you can switch off dynamic lighting in the options menu to get a frame rate boost, this removes all variation in lighting and kills the atmosphere completely. Aside from the occasional frame rate problems though, Doom's short monster-packed levels and fast paced visceral action work a treat on Nintendo's hand-held. The "three keys and an exit" run-and-gun gameplay is a little basic by today's standards, and the AI and storyline are virtually non-existent, but the game makes up for this with wall-to-wall carnage, a tense atmosphere and plenty of secret areas to uncover. The controls are surprisingly easy to master, with the D-pad controlling your movement, select bringing up a map, and the A and B buttons handling running, opening doors, pushing switches, firing and so forth. You actually have a choice of half a dozen preset configurations, with the best using the shoulder buttons for strafing but requiring you to hold down two keys at once to switch weapons. This can be a little fiddly in the middle of a fight, but on the bright side having dedicated strafe keys makes circling around your enemies a doddle with a little practice.
Dave Palmer and the boys have done a solid job of converting id's seminal shooter to the GameBoy Advance, with only a few frame rate issues and the weak ending letting it down. The game itself is fairly short, but with a choice of four difficulty settings and the addition of two player co-operative and four player deathmatch options via the link cable, there's plenty here to keep you coming back for more.