Saturday, 26 April 2014

Elevator Action Old & New (Game Boy Advance)

So obviously, everyone knows of the Elevator Action series, probably through the amazing arcade game Elevator Action Returns, but I think this entry into the series has gone mostly unplayed, released as it was, only in Japan, and apparently not in great quantities.
The cartridge contains both the original Elevator Action and a whole new game. The original is what it is. I won't waste too much time talking about it, but it's definitely a game that lives in the shadow of its sequels: it's
brutally hard, fiddly to control and moves like it's set at the bottom of a treacle ocean.
The new game lets you pick from three playable characters, with different stats. There is a fourth character unlocked after completing the game with all three characters, but I didn't go that far. I got most of the way through with one character before giving up on the game. The game's stages are split into 8 sets of four, which all have to be played through individually, which presents one of the biggest problems the game has. Because you get a whole new set of lives every four stages, this makes getting through the first three quarters of the game incredibly easy. You might argue that this is to make the game more palatable for a handheld console, but compare to another GBA game, the excellent Ninja Cop (which itself has a few similarities to the Elevator Action series), which allows the player to start at any set of stages, but also goes straight into the next once one is finished, with the continuing score adding an extra incentive to play the game from start to finish in a single run. Elevator Action New doesn't even have scoring, so the player is literally just trying to get from start to finish.
With that complaint out of the way, you might wonder why I didn't complete the game, even once. The thing is, once you get to the penultimate set of stages, the game does two things that totally throw the difficulty from "pointlessly easy" to "unfairly difficult". The first thing is a new enemy, big robots that stomp around the floors shooting lasers, and who take ten shots to kill. For context, consider that your ammo is limited in this game, even for the default gun, and the player starts each stage with only 30 bullets. The second is the fact that the stage layouts are no longer simple vertical buildings with the exit at the top or bottom. I gave up on
the game, when, after finding all the secret files in one stage, dying to a time out when I couldn't seem to find the stage exit anywhere.
The game isn't a total write-off, though. There is one new element that I really liked in this game: the disguise power up. It turns the player into an enemy for 10 or so seconds, allowing them to walk about the stages freely, without any enemy interference. It's only a simple little thing, but it's a lot of fun. Unfortunately, it's not enough to save this game. I never expected EAN to be able to stand up to Elevator Action Returns, but the fact is, it doesn't even stand up to its Game Boy Color antescendant Elevator Action EX, which is a great game, and one which I definitely recommend, should you have a need for some portable elevator-themed espionage.


  1. Ah, I don't know. I thought this was pretty decent at the time. I guess we were in a drought of good platformers, though, so maybe I was just desperate.

  2. It seems like no one can get Elevator Action right since EX. This game and the PS3 one were both real snoozefests.

    Can you imagine what another game like Returns would be like with modern graphics, assuming they were handled well?