Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2 is the successor to an acceptable Dreamcast boxing game. In both cases, publisher Midway brought in Crawfish Interactive to head up conversions to Nintendo portables. The original Ready 2 Rumble Boxing on Game Boy Color was judged to be a decent rendition of boxing. Unfortunately though, the second time around things got worse instead of better. The first mistake was putting the same development team on the project. No disrespect to them, but if they didn't get it right the first time round, giving them a console with larger goalposts and telling them to try again isn't going to help. In fact, they've produced what is arguably the least favourable of all Game Boy Advance launch titles. There are 11 boxers in total, including six from the original game, and, to put it simply, the game consists of three bouts of pummelling, during which time you may build up your RUMBLE metre to execute a Rumble Flurry. Apart from the Championship mode, the game features a smattering of sub-games including a training mode that consists of five different exercises (two of which are daft and three of which are potentially replayable), and if you play the Championship mode for long enough you can unlock secret characters like Shaq and The Prince of Pop, Michael Jackson.
Thanks to the Game Boy Advance's limited graphics capabilities compared to the Dreamcast and PlayStation 2, there's no luscious 3D engine, just pre-rendered boxer sprites on a 2D background. The animation is more than acceptable, which is a relief, but if they had to compromise, why didn't they use a bit of artistic license and change the perspective to first person or something else vaguely original? My one concern here (as with so many handheld fighters) is that the sprites simply look too small on an already small screen, and I would have liked to have seen them look a little more overbearing. And since there's so much ring space to be seen, Crawfish decided not to pan the camera much, if at all, so frequently battles are taking place right under your right-hand thumb as the characters close in on the corner, which is quite silly when viewed on the GBA's wide screen. Once you've embarked upon the Championship mode, instead of being treated to sharp, reflex-based boxing, you're at the mercy of the controls. If you hit a punch button, you expect to have it directed through the gap that you lined up, not for it to wait a few seconds before landing. Thanks to the control system in Ready 2 Rumble though, things rarely happen on time (or even at all!) and so every bout is in effect a button-bashing affair, decided by exactly when your opponent decides to let his guard down. You could blame this unfortunate ineffectual fighting style on the "Stamina bar", which needs to be at a certain point for your moves to connect, but even on full charge, with my opponent on the ropes, a lot of the time simple button combinations fail to connect. You get the feeling that there's something decidedly out of sync deep within the game's motor functions. As for the RUMBLE metre, I've only managed to charge it fully the one time in the course of an average encounter. The bouts simply aren't long enough for a Rumble Flurry ever to come up!
Further down the spiral
The final nail in Ready 2 Rumble's coffin is its lack of multiplayer support. When we spoke to Crawfish's Mike Merren back in March he told us that the GBA's excellent link-up potential would "widen the use of Multiplayer products and make multiplayer only games a step closer." Clearly this didn't rub off on Mike's own products, because there's no link-up option to be seen anywhere; not even one that requires multiple cartridges (a bit of a let-down as it would be). Mike was right though, the absence of link-up options in GBA games makes them look all the more shallow. Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2 is an unfortunate example. There's little to recommend about Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2 on Game Boy Advance, except that you steer well clear of it. Perhaps Nintendo will drag out Super Punchout some day and show Crawfish/Midway how it's done. At least then we might get a multiplayer mode. In the meantime though, a few decent sub-games surrounding a lacklustre boxing conversion aren't enough to justify the Ł30 outlay.