You are currently viewing an archival version of GF!

Click here to return to the current GamesFirst! website.

Questions? Suggestions? Comments?
Contact us at:

cover.jpg (49270 bytes)

star06.gif (4104 bytes)star06.gif (4104 bytes)star06.gif (4104 bytes)

by Majesco

da1-01.jpg (6661 bytes)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.

da9-01.jpg (6740 bytes)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 it’s so similar it’s spooky. So Dark Arena is a helluva lot like Doom. We’ve established that. Now why does Doom end up being the more well rounded package?

da4-01.jpg (7408 bytes)Think 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, you’d figure they’d 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 you’ve never played a first person shooter, let me tell you what that entails: frustrating, boring gameplay.

DA_2-01.jpg (7425 bytes)Majesco 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 there’s plenty of evil to go around, it’s just really wussy evil – the kind of evil other evil gave swirlies to in grade school.

DA_4-01.jpg (7975 bytes)That’s not to say that Majesco made a poor product here. The graphics are amazing for a 3D GBA game. I’ll 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, it’s a whole different ballgame. It looks about like you’d 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.

da7-01.jpg (8499 bytes)The weapons 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 can’t (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.

da3-01.jpg (8852 bytes)When all is said and done, you’re basically playing Doom shaped by today’s 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 on!

David Logan   (04/16/2002)


Ups: Novel weapons; good graphics.

Downs: Action? What is this 'action' you speak of?

Platform: Game Boy Advance