This game is the ultimate Doom
clone (remember when that term was tossed about like candy?). It has most of the strengths
and most of the weaknesses that the aforementioned game has. What separates the two? A few
key differences that in the end put Doom on top.
Like I said, Dark Arena is the
poster child for the Doom clone. Cornball plot, weird enemies, and the same damn engine. I
played Doom all the time when I was a younger man, and have played the GBA version to
death, and I swear to God that Majesco must have either paid for use of the engine or
reverse engineered it because its so similar its spooky. So Dark Arena is a
helluva lot like Doom. Weve established that. Now why does Doom end up being the
more well rounded package?
about the limits of the Game Boy Advance. Can you make a first person shooter with a lot
of emphasis on adventure as opposed to action? No. Even Ecks Vs. Sever is primarily an
action game. And since Dark Arena is presumably based around the Doom engine, youd
figure theyd lean more to action than puzzles. While the enemies in Dark Arena are
far more aggressive and intelligent, the game plods along at a staggering pace. The main
reason for this is the removal of the run button. If youve never played a first
person shooter, let me tell you what that entails: frustrating, boring gameplay.
seemed to realize this and threw in more enemies than you can shake a stick at to
compensate. The only problem is that you can use your default gun (which has infinite ammo
by the way) to defeat just about any baddy. So basically theres plenty of evil to go
around, its just really wussy evil the kind of evil other evil gave swirlies
to in grade school.
not to say that Majesco made a poor product here. The graphics are amazing for a 3D GBA
game. Ill use Doom yet again as comparison. In Doom the only way you could tell if
there was a monster at the end of a long hall was to wait around and see if a couple of
pixels moved. In DA, its a whole different ballgame. It looks about like youd
expect a Genesis-designed FPS to look. I do have one minor complaint with the graphics:
The most common type of enemy walks like it has a stick up its butt. It made me pity them
more than want to kill them.
are good too, each having their strengths and weaknesses. I found myself hollering
"Kick ass!" each and every time I picked up the guided missile. While I wish you
could control the missile to go up or down, I can see why I cant (mess up the
perspective and make all the 2D components, which is basically everything but the arena,
look really odd). This may even top the Sniper Rifle in Ecks vs. Sever as the coolest
portable game gun to date.
is said and done, youre basically playing Doom shaped by todays gaming
standard, for better or for worse. There are some good ideas here, but the lack of the
frantic action that made first person shooters so popular so quickly really hurts the
score. So think of Dark Arena as a good expansion to Doom, zone out, and get your killing