It was this time last year that Newcastle-based creators of the Driver and Destruction Debry series brought Stuntman to the PS2. The vehicle-based game saw you, as the title would suggest, taking the role of a stuntman, carrying out death-defying stunts in a variety of vehicles, from skidoos to fast sports cars, and from vans to a Tuk-Tuk. The stunts were split into sections relating to different films, with each movie possessing a different style of action (Bond/spy, Indiana Jones/tomb raiding, etc.), and contained some excellent CGI cut-scenes to piece the action together. The CGI and your own stunt action formed the final movie trailer. It worked very well, as you can see in my PS2 review here.
Reflections are now currently busy with Driver 3, but Game Boy driving veteran, Velez & Dubail, have taken to bringing the classic title to the handheld. They are veterans because of their work on driving games on the Game Boy platform over the years, as well as more recently the great V-Rally 3 GBA conversion. In Stuntman the developers have taken their excellent 3D engine, tuned it, and given life to this version of the PS2 game. Using 3D was a great choice; Stuntman really could not be done properly on a 2D scale, as the ability to see what is coming ahead (to react quickly to instructions), as well as a third-person view of the car (to provide an action-like appearance) were essential. As well as impressive details, and true solid objects, there are also hills and dips which provide a true 3D landscape. Despite pulling off something that is visually pleasing for a GBA title, there are some cracks in the engine. These are obviously compromises the developers had to make in order to keep the framerate up, and the game playable, so although some may be distracting (like a train appearing in front of a mountain on one scene, when it should be behind), they are forgivable.
Despite being a driving game, Stuntman isn't about racing. Of course you do race against the clock to get the tasks done, but the core gameplay of the title involves following instructions shouted at you by the director, such as "Overtake on the right", "Skim the Explosion", and "Jump!". In this way it has recreated the PS2 game well, and because of this also carries another feature from its original creation; the ability to completely irritate you at times. It's not as if the gameplay is in anyway flawed, its just the sheer difficulty in achieving some section can really get on your nerves. Trying and trying again may sound like a bad design to the game, but it is in fact its enjoyable nature that makes you actually WANT to come back and have another go. It does, after all, make completing each section like an actual achievement, rather than merely a stepping stone to something else. Now this addictive action is portable, you need to be aware of the time, and not find yourself sitting in a park or on a Circle Line tube train for three days, unaware of everything going on around you. The only issue I have is that the presentation is not quite up to the standard of the PS2 version, due to the lack of the CGI and the trailers which provide a real movie experience. Instead, we have an excellent collection of movie stunts, but little more than a title image and some text to connect them.
The sound quality is also very good for a GBA. Voice samples on the GBA are still uncommon, but feature largely in Stuntman due to the nature of the game. As in the PS2 version, the director shouts the stunt orders at you, and the sound is perfectly audible, and therefore useful to the game. As you will always want to hear what he says, I recommend SP owners pick up a headphone adapter so they don't miss out in times when quiet is required. The music is also of a very good quality.
We know it looks good, plays well, and sounds great, but how long will the title last? Well, obviously due to limitations in the GBA the Stunt Editor had to removed, but in its place are some side quests; the Precision Tests (where players have to take the car through a type of obstacle course), and the Jump Tests (where players drive up various ramps to gain letters in mid-air which form a movie-related word). The latter of these can also be played in two player mode. Both, however, involve a choice of cars (unlockable by money earned in the main game) and also allow you to unlock some more stuff in the game. But despite the multiplayer and the hidden extras, the game is limited, and not something which you can keep coming back to forever.
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