Earlier this year, DSI Games entered an agreement with Namco that gave DSI the rights to produce GBA titles from the Namco library. One of the first games out of this deal is kill.switch
, a portable rendition of the one-man-against-an-army game released on consoles in 2003. The portable conversion may have its quirks, but overall it's a surprising success on the Game Boy Advance, giving gamers a style of game that's not exactly commonplace in the system's library.
- Three types of missions per challenge
- Cartridge save (three slots)
Though the game design gives off an air of tactical espionage, kill.switch
for the Game Boy Advance is really a more careful, third-person view of an FPS style of game. There's no extraneous gameplay elements other than getting from point A to B, but it's how
you get from start to finish that makes the game feel unique.
Anyone who simply runs through the game will get gunned down in seconds. The game not just encourages using cover to avoid getting shot, it absolutely requires it. The idea and challenge is to creep along enemy territory, diving behind vehicles, crates, building pillars and other objects your character can safely hide behind. He's got a lot of technique when crouched behind cover -- the ability to peek out and "safely" blast away his guns or lob grenades is what gives this GBA game its unique feel. Missions are absolutely massive in kill.switch, each one featuring many sub-areas of different locations and challenges that extend the game's length to a satisfying size. And when a mission's complete, players can re-enter the mission to try out two more different ways to play: time trial and "zombie mode" where enemies respawn after a few seconds of being killed.
Finally. Visual Impact's 3D engine has found a game design tailored specifically to the company's technology. The development team's been poking around for some time on the GBA, trying to sandwich its 3D tech on fast-paced titles such as SSX and Corvette, instead of creating a game that's better suited to its strengths and weaknesses. kill.switch is not a maniacal shooter; it's a careful, tactical game where players succeed more for their caution than a gutsy run-and-gun technique. And Visual Impact's 3D engine handles this admirably; though enemies and items are rendered as sprites, everything else, from the main character to the environments in the game are texture-mapped 3D objects, and it's this that gives the game an important and impressive fluidity to the action, and retains a lot of the feel of the console game design. The 3D engine also makes it possible for the on-screen character to do his trademark moves; peek around corners, back up safely against cover objects, dive through enemy fire, and other techniques that would be a little tough to render in a sprite-based environment.
Only when the screen gets overly complex with structures does the framerate drop ever so slightly, and the viewing distance does tend to "pop-up" when moving through corridors, but on the whole the level designers created mission designs that keep the action smooth and the pop-up at a mininum. And everything looks great in motion on the GBA screen; wall textures and objects are well detailed, there's plenty of pillars and crates to hide behind, and there are plenty of opportunity to cause things to go "boom," when shot. Don't think that the portable game is a replacement for a GameCube version of kill.switch that Namco never made, because the graphic engine is really tailored specifically for the GBA and its small LCD screen. In other words, keep it off the Game Boy Player and leave it on the hardware it was made for.
kill.switch is, admittedly, somewhat sluggish with sandwiched control on the Game Boy Advance. Players must put up with a very slow moving cursor when trying to target enemies. The game's also limited because of the amount of buttons available to the player, so it's a little on the clunky side to aim while running from point to point on the map. And the game's move where players can use a less accurate but safer "cover fire" is made almost useless from a glitch in the game; players can just back away from the object while still obscured from the enemy, and shoot their weapons "through" the object with way more accuracy.
It's also a little tough to tell where enemy fire's coming from. In some levels enemies will pounce out from behind cover, but the game doesn't really give any indication which direction the player's character is being shot. The 3D engine, as capable as it is on the GBA hardware, doesn't have the framerate to show the quick animation needed for the tracer fire. The bullets do zip across the screen, but they don't really represent the direction they're moving. Sort of like the strobing effect on moving wheels in real life: when they move so fast they look like they're going in reverse.
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