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SummaryFocusing on What Matters
The GoodThe port is extremely competently done. The porting folks have preserved the core essence of the PC game, all the while making the game on GBA's terms. Other people, take note - *this* is how games should be ported to less powerful platforms!
Max Payne was a pretty cool concept when it came out; the GBA version took this cool concept and turned it into yet another cool concept. I think GBA Max Payne does to 2D isometric shooters what PC Max Payne did to 3D third-person shooters! Oh well, it's a revolution out there, a revolution, I say - I hope people are paying attention this time, too.
The game has more of "Rockstar" than "Remedy" feel to it. There's less plot to follow than in PC version, and far more blood and senseless violence. This is pretty unusual, as I usually don't like too much violence, but this didn't bother me that much. It's more cartoonish anyway...
The BadThe controls work pretty well on GBA, and you don't need to be surgically accurate when aiming the weapons and all, but still, the controls aren't *perfect*. Being an isometric game, there's a lot of diagonal movement, and GBA d-pad isn't particularly well suited for diagonal movement. The situation is *slightly* better if you play on Game Boy Player.
Then there's one thing that GBA conversions frequently suffer from: The thing is slightly abridged. The game follows the same pattern as the PC version, but has less content - not all of the levels, for example!
Oh, and I've never experienced a GBA game to slow down... and this *isn't* a very lame joke about Bullet Time. Sometimes the game actually does slow down if it has to draw a lot of stuff on screen.
The soundtrack only has three or four songs, which isn't really a problem, though - I just would have liked to hear more, especially since it wasn't stolen directly from the PC version, it's just *imitating* the style pretty well.
The Bottom LineMax Payne was one of the games I waited for ages and ages and ages. Then it came out. I played through it. I liked it a lot. Then I pretty much forgot about it. The original game had this really cliched and semi-funny plot, tons of really cool 3D graphics, amazing music, cool Matrix-like Bullet Time things which led to cool tricks you could do... well, it just ruled. For some reason, I thought not to play it again. I always *meant* to, honest...
Then I heard it was coming out for GBA. I couldn't believe my ears. Or eyes.
The development team chose the obvious route: They figured out that you can't do really, really impressive 3D graphics on GBA, and you can't do mouse aiming either - so they had to focus on what really was the essence of Max Payne. They made an isometric shooter instead. Instead of aiming for photorealism, I think they just took the graphic novel idea of the cutscenes and made 2D sprites and backgrounds in that vein. And then... guns, explosions, gore, and Bullet Time!
The game has a largish chunk of the original game's levels - over half of them, I think, most of the stuff that is relevant to the original game's plot. The layout is just as accurately reproduced as you can make them on isometric 2D. There are all of the weapons too. The levels themselves no longer have sound bits in them, and everything is done in speech bubbles - which, in my opinion, is pretty stylish and even more helpful than some of the PC version's garbled sounds.
What's cool is that they have managed to get all of the relevant graphic novel sections to the conversion. With spoken dialogue and everything. It's not that surprising that PEGI decided to slap 16+ rating to this game due to violence and drugs and all... but the dialogue goes toward that goal too. Oh dear, my innocent Game Boy headphones, which have served me well for over a decade, were corrupted by vile dialogue like "Screw you!"... (Just think of it: how many GBA games *can* get a 16+ rating? You need to try pretty hard these days, everything on low-res these days gets labeled "cartoonish"... well, there's certainly enough of splattering red pixels in this game to get that 16+!)
The gameplay works to the extent it's necessary. Overall, the game is easier than the original game, but this is just to be expected a bit. And it works in other ways, too - the levels are pretty well paced, it doesn't take that many minutes to get through one, so doing so it honors the GBA's portability pretty well.
If you thought original PC game was weird and funny and cool, get the GBA version too - it's pretty much a version that you *can* play over and over without getting tired about the thought.