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G.I. Joe: The Atlantis Factor (NES) artwork

G.I. Joe: The Atlantis Factor (NES) review

"Typically, video game sequels are able to build upon the experiences that their predecessors offered. I tend to enjoy any follow-ups far more than I do the initial installments for that reason, but it was clear to me as I played through G.I. Joe: The Atlantis Factor that something had gone very wrong in the design process. The result is a sequel that is inferior to the original title in nearly every way."

Typically, video game sequels are able to build upon the experiences that their predecessors offered. I tend to enjoy any follow-ups far more than I do the initial installments for that reason, but it was clear to me as I played through G.I. Joe: The Atlantis Factor that something had gone very wrong in the design process. The result is a sequel that is inferior to the original title in nearly every way.

One year after they survive the events depicted in the first game, the members of the G.I. Joe team belatedly discover that the location of Cobraís former headquarters was positioned directly above the lost continent of Atlantis. Using a vast power source discovered in the depths of those ruins, Cobra forces have managed to bring Atlantis back to the ocean surface, resurrecting Cobra Commander in the process. Now, General Hawk and a small infiltration team must find and stop Cobra Commander before he can unleash the power of Atlantis and take over the world (cue Chris Lattaís raspy, villainous laugh right here).

If you played the first G.I. Joe game for the NES, youíll notice differences the minute you start playing the sequel. Instead of picking a team of three from the outset, you only start off with General Hawk and must locate the rest of his strike force while completing the new mission. Itís entirely possible to beat the game without finding all six playable characters, since The Atlantis Factor utilizes a branching level select screen thatís very similar to the one found in Capcomís Bionic Commando. Not every zone must be completed and that means you might miss out on finding some team members.

It seems like the developers at KID, the company responsible for both games, tried to make the different Joe troops unique, but in doing so they caused a lot of problems. Characters feature wildly different stamina attributes, which can only be increased by finding special items in the field. The final character I found was Snake Eyes, who by default can withstand a measly two hits. This low rating makes him nearly worthless unless you can find enough health boosts. Itís as painful as listening to Serpentor cry ďCobra-la-la-la!Ē

Leveling up characters is a chore in general, actually. Each weapon, including melee and up to five types of guns, can reach a maximum level of 4. Getting there is a challenge, though, thanks to a couple of ridiculous issues. A lot of power-ups pop out of fallen enemies, but instead of sitting quietly and waiting to be picked up, they bounce all over the place. Sometimes youíll be right next to the power-up and can collect it immediately without any effort, but a lot of times they seem to try their damnedest to take off in the opposite direction. Even if you collect the item right away, that might not be what you really want. See, you need to have the weapon selected that you want to level up, and you also have to be using the character that you want the power-up to go to. Leveling everyone up equally can prove problematic at best, and nigh impossible in later levels when youíre trying to press the Select button five times to get out the right weapon before a bouncing POW icon careens into your Joe.

The problems with item collection donít stop there, though, oh no! Later on, enemies hardly seem to drop any items at all. This brings character progression to a screeching halt, and it feels like youíve embarked on a quest for the Holy Grail as you reach the end of the game and search for health boosts for frail characters such as Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes. Even the K rations that refill your hit points become scarce, as the difficulty ramps up and the screen fills with bullets that are nearly impossible to avoid. I can forgive the rarity of weapon boosts, because at least no real progress is lost when you continue your game. The real crime here is the severe lack of ammo. The three Joes in your team share a mutual pile of ammo, and each gun you find uses more and more bullets for each individual shot fired. Bosses absolutely require you to pump them full of lead, which in turn forces you to rely heavily on melee combat as you negotiate the levels leading up to those confrontations. While I enjoyed how each character learns new moves as their melee attack levels up, fighting in this risky manner leads to a lot of cheap hits and aggravating deaths.

Itís not all bad news, though; just like the previous G.I. Joe game, characters control well and look good. The character sprites are just big enough to properly resemble the characters they are meant to represent, and many of them boast unique animations for their various melee attacks. Such touches go a long way toward making the team members feel less cookie cutter than they did in the first game, but with each Joe relying on the same selection of weapons, something vital does seem to still be missing.

The non-linear nature of the level progression is a nice feature, at least, and I enjoyed trying my hand at different levels if one was proving to be a little too challenging at the moment. There is also zero actionable intelligence available on areas before you visit them, so itís entirely possible to tackle levels with the wrong characters. Neglecting to take Wet Suit on a level that includes a bunch of underwater areas is going to result in a ton of missed power ups, for example, and some characters simply canít jump high enough to reach level objectives. If you could revisit these areas after the fact, it would make leveling up characters and finding ammunition much easier. Sadly, that option isnít offered.

I didnít have a terrible time overall with G.I. Joe: The Atlantis Factor, but I do feel that the first game is far superior. Maybe if I replayed the sequel numerous times and memorized the best order in which to tackle the levels, my experience would improve, but it should be possible to succeed and to have more fun along the way no matter how you might choose to proceed. If you enjoyed the first G.I. Joe game there is plenty to appreciate in the sequel, but if youíve never played these games youíre better off starting with the first one and saving the merely adequate sequel for another day.

Rating: 5/10

AlphaNerd's avatar
Freelance review by Julian Titus (April 18, 2013)

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