Sound of Thunder (Game Boy Advance) - Review by Andrew
BAM! seems to have a habit of releasing games based on movies yet to be released. The first of these was the strangely titled Ecks vs. Sever, which came out so early that it spawned a sequel, Ballistic that was actually rather good. Now we have A Sound of Thunder, which was announced some years ago, previewed last year and will eventually get a big screen release this summer in the US and later in Europe. The game and movie are based on a short story penned by Ray Bradbury over fifty years ago and anyone familiar with it will be a little bemused that no one has been tempted to shoot this remarkable tale before. All this, of course, has little bearing on the game's playability and ultimate entertainment value. As we know good movies have spawned bad games and vice versa so how does this one fare?
The game's plot, in case you didn't know it, revolves around the state of the world in the middle of this century which is a little on the unstable side because of an unfortunate 'event' in the earth's past brought on by some rather clumsy and somewhat gun crazy time travelers. This makes for unpredictable gameplay with the odd level changing even as you attempt to navigate it. You play the part of Travis Ryer and start out on foot with only a handful of simple, not too powerful weapons at your disposal, but as the type of creature you'll come across is generally weak and not particularly intelligent this isn't generally a problem. As well as ridding your location of the various creatures you also have to solve an array of puzzles. The developers have wisely avoided the 'find a key, find a door' route and have instead employed some rather devious block puzzles. These usually involve you activating pressure pads by moving boxes but because the boxes in question posess very different properties this isn't as simple as it sounds. To make matters worse and increase the pressure you may find yourself attacked by plants or dinosaurs and it's important to note that just because a room is empty when you first enter it everything can change with the flip of a switch or the opening of a safe.
In addition to missions 'on foot' you also get the chance to drive one of two very different vehicles, which can be hugely entertaining especially when you're being chased by one of the many roaming dinosaurs. As with the other sections these start out pretty simple but quickly move on to more difficult puzzle-based sections. You start off in a simple car where the skills required have more to do with speed and avoidance tactics thanks to your lack of weapons. This changes though once you locate the ATV fitted with a suitably powerful machine gun. We've concerned ourselves with the single player aspects of the game but there are also some bonus multiplayer sections one of which can host four players from a single cart. These include the incredibly addictive death match mode where you have seven arenas to choose from as well as every weapon available and if you happen to have two copies of the game you can also indulge in a cooperative mode with one player driving whilst the other mans the guns.
The saving of this game has clearly defined good and bad points. On the positive side the various levels are just the right size to give you a great sense of accomplishment without forcing you to repeat the same puzzle over and over again. On the minus side though BAM! have opted for a password save rather than the more mobile-friendly battery backup option. It's not the worst we've encountered at only six digits but you'll still require pen and paper if you want to complete the whole game.
Considering the number of game types pushed into this tiny cart the control is remarkably intuitive and responsive. This is perhaps to be expected in the driving sections but the main character is much more complex as you'll need to employ a variety of moves every time you encounter one of the many puzzles.
Using the same engine that Max Payne is wrapped around A Sound of Thunder takes place in a perfectly crafted isometric environment. There's enough variety to keep you both interested and alert as the developers have clearly avoided the temptation to repeat the various landscapes. Or if they have, it's not so you'd notice. The animation in the game is wonderful with the main character moving smoothly and in a realistic manor regardless of what he's doing. The same applies to the driving sections where the various vehicles react to cornering as if they were constructed of real materials. Crucially the game never shows any evidence of slowdown regardless of how much on screen activity there is, which is important when several sizeable dinosaurs occasionally confront you. Finally a mention has to be given to the cut screens. When we first saw these a few years ago I have to say that we were a little disappointed however the end result is a stunning combination of shifting and scaling images mixed with appropriate sound effects which is a very effective means of storytelling.
We're guessing that the title music is in some way based on the movie's actual score as it sounds exactly as you'd expect a sci-fi action adventure to. It's good stuff too with the developers doing a fine job of harnessing the GBA sound chip's strengths and weaknesses. Better still are the various sound effects, which include everything from simple footsteps to the different sounding weapons and vehicles. Everything is incredibly clear helping to create a truly tense atmosphere.
Movie tie-in games aren't generally much more than mediocre entertainment and when the same product suffers years of delay we can only fear the worst. Strangely though A Sound of Thunder has managed to rise above all this and all we have to say is that it was definitely worth the wait. Entertaining gameplay woven through an engaging and well-written story is really all gamers want from a title. Add to this the constant change in pace, gaming styles and overall atmosphere and you'll start to see just why we found it so hard to put down. A mention must also go to some of the puzzles in the latter part of the game, which manage to bridge the fine line between utter frustration and complete satisfaction (at least they do when you finally figure them out). Its only downside really is the use of a password save rather than the preferred cartridge system but the addition of the multiplayer from a single cart (which most developers appear to have completely forgotten about) does make up for this minor flaw.
Pro: Multiplayer Modes
Con: Password Save
Final score: 8.3
|Platform:||Game Boy Advance|
|Genre:||Arcade / Adventure|