Defender (GBA)

Defender (GBA)

Written by Ben Zackheim on 1/2/2003 for GBA  

I’ve worked on a game before. That’s right, I actually produced one at Sony Online Entertainment. It was the shortest lived online-only game The Station ever launched. It was a test run for the doomed/ahead of its time pay-per-play concept and its name was Fantasy War. Disregard the title for a second…please, stop laughing, I have a point to make. The game was fun. It was way overbudget, way behind schedule and way too buggy by the time it launched but I will always stand by how fun it was. I was proud of contributing my small part to a good product (it was a runner up for best online game in Computer Gaming World, behind Everquest).

When I review a game I can’t just throw away that experience. I have to picture the folks who worked their butts off to get this thing done and wonder just what they think of their final product. I wonder what the folks at Midway think of Defender for the GBA. My bet is they wish they had more time to make the game they wanted to.From the moment you move your ship in Defender you know something is terribly wrong. It acts like a piece of lint on the end of a string. When you press up on the thumbpad the ship just goes up, when you let go the ship just stops. No sense of weight, or speed, or dynamic movement. Even the original scrolled your screen to catch up with the action. That little lag gave you a feeling of movement that had kids swaying back and forth at the arcades!

You still get your radar, thank goodness, because I need as much heads up as I can get to avoid the baddies who are around 5 times faster than me. The gaudy backgrounds are an attempt to upgrade the look of the game but they only manage to hide your opponents in colorful palettes that make them even harder to hit.

I like the explosions. Things go boom in a cool little way.

The game’s one possible saving grace is its inclusion of the original Defender on the same cartridge. But get this. Instead of giving the classic version the ONE BENEFIT of the newer version, it didn’t. The controls in the classic version require you to use the left and right TRIGGER BUTTONS to turn in a different direction and move forward. The control pad is only used for up and down. WHAT THE -? While this is similar to the odd controls of the original arcade game, it just doesn’t cut it on a small GBA. The new version on the same cart might have no charm but at least when you point the control pad in a direction that’s the direction the ship goes. It’s almost as if they wanted us to think that the new version was better since classic version is so unplayable with the controls they gave us.

Defender for the GBA isn’t even a rental. Hell, I wouldn’t even borrow it from a friend. Might give it as a Xmas gift to an enemy though. I feel like the developer was rushed into releasing this game. It’s a shame since the Defender gameplay is perfect for a handheld console. I hope they try again.
Bad controls, shoddy gameplay, cardboard physics, gaudy backgrounds and a classic mode that could have been great but gets killed by even more horrid controls.

Rating: 2 Bad

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

Ben Zackheim was born Ben Zackheim sometime before 1980 and after 1960 which characterizes him not at all. He's a writer of reviews, comics and screenplays, but aren't we all? Luxuries like food and shoes mean nothing to him. He's married to the most beautiful woman in the world, Robin, who reads all his reviews before he sends them in and says "Are you really going to write that for the public to read?" But I assure her no one reads my reviews anyway, only Charlie's, so it's kind of like a tree in the forest (without the cute little fuzzy things who smell their own poop - wait, then again there is Charlie...) She's a cross between Gillian Anderson and Hillary Clinton, which is a monster I'd love to play in Monster Rancher Advance 2. Photos are available upon request for a small fee. I'm currently writing this bio but have no plans beyond that. View Profile

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