Action Man Robot Attack (Game Boy Advance) - Review by Andrew



Like many traditional games companies now, Hasbro have jumped on the console bandwagon with one of their best-known franchises. It's not the first time they've dabbled with handheld games either, previously releasing a GBC title some years ago with the aid of THQ. Anyone who played this 'ho hum' title will probably recall it as being instantly forgettable although the limitations of the technology at the time were possibly at the root of the game's problem. Several years down the line, and no doubt spurred on by LEGO's incredible success in this market, we have another release featuring the UK's answer to GI Joe (just in case some of our American readers have no idea who Action Man is). There's certainly enough source material there, as anyone who had the high-end poseable action figure (NOT a doll) all those years ago will confirm but can the developers get the excitement of a full-on (and imagination driven) back garden/open field battle into a tiny cart? I know we're dying to find out the answer... are you?


Action Man's latest handheld adventure takes place on Dr. X's Island and as you'd expect from a crazy, power hungry dictator he's threatening to destroy the world. The game takes place over a good number of levels, each only becoming available on completion of the last. While Robot Atak is, at its heart, a side scrolling platformer the sheer variety in each level separates it from other similar titles. Obviously there are the platforms and henchmen to dispose of but further exploration will result in a more rewarding gameplay. Collectables, for example, not only present you with extra health and lives but also additional weapons and firepower. These range from the amiable crossbows to what can only be described as the best handheld, air-to-ground guided missiles, which although on a timer can destroy anything (and we mean everything) in its path. After a few levels of this it's on to your motorbike (again armed with missiles) and while this is essentially the same thing it's so much more satisfying when you don't have to walk. If that isn't enough there's also a jetpack section, which although probably the easiest of all the different levels is certainly one of the more unique for a platformer.

Outside of your basic platforming the developers have pulled out all the stops to include some rather enjoyable 3D sections. These take place on jet and surf boards and, while the object is to simply reach the end of the course whilst collecting tokens, the speed here makes the whole thing that much more challenging. Even after completion there's an Advance Mode, which changes the gaming rules significantly making the whole thing much more taxing. One interesting thing here, which we haven't seen for some time, is the use of the official internet page for codes and anyone visiting said site will be provided with a rather useful pass code. What it does is up to you to discover, but it would be nice to see more of the sort of feature that has only previously been exploited for worldwide high scores. On the subject of codes unfortunately there's no battery backup here and everything has to be written down on a piece of paper. We won't go on about this. You know how we feel.


Considering the control system changes considerably from level to level the whole thing is kept very simple and intuitive. It's also remarkably responsive with one level in particular requiring you to run, jump and shoot over a series of crumbling platforms. This is aided considerably by a series of signposts, which pop up whenever a new move is about to be activated. It all works very well and really should be used in all platformers allowing for manual free gameplay.


Visuals have always been a strong point from developers Magic Pockets and here they've delivered once again in every department. Don't expect photo realistic graphics though as this is the very stylized world that has accompanied the 'new' action man in both TV and print adverts for some time now. If you're unfamiliar with this, it translates into bold chunky visuals meaning you'll always have a clear idea of what's going on and a stray bullet'll never hit you because it's difficult to see against the background. The animation is also good and it has to be as your main character runs, jumps, crouches whilst shooting and performs some rather death defying acrobatics, all in the space of a few seconds. It's not all 2D either and the 3D racing engine is both competent and speedy although not as visually pleasing as the other sections.


As you'd expect this is a full on action soundtrack. Imagine James Bond and Mission Impossible and then throw in every other action movie theme you've ever heard and you're probably there. You just don't expect it to be so good and although it's been composed as midi audio it really is very impressive. The sound effects are less so, simply punctuating the on screen action although if you happen to dislike either they can be de-activated in the options menu.

Final comments

I probably speak for most of the gamers out there when I say that Action Man was much better than I initially thought it would be. I've encountered too many similar licenses over the years with a potentially good product not being so good due to time/money constraints. Magic Pockets are still one of my favorite and most consistent European Developers around today. What it means for you the gamer (not to mention Action Man fan) is that Atari has managed to deliver an exciting, varied and fun to play game cart, which also has considerable replay value. It's been some time since I've been able to fully recommend a license such as Action Man with any kind of conviction and while Robot Atak is by no means a classic it's certainly worth a look.

Pro: Varied Gameplay
Con: Very Tough in Places
Final score: 7.5


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Boxart of Action Man Robot Attack (Game Boy Advance)
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Genre: Action / Platformer
Developer: Magic Pockets
Publisher: Atari