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A Sound of Thunder (Game Boy Advance) artwork

A Sound of Thunder (Game Boy Advance) review


"Imagine my enthusiasm when I booted up yet another movie tie-in, this time a third-person shooter. Even worse, it’s based on a film that’s all about time travel, and anyone who knows me can tell you that I’m not a fan of time travel, because nine out of ten times, the concept is implemented such that it’s riddled with plot holes. "



Imagine my enthusiasm when I booted up yet another movie tie-in, this time a third-person shooter. Even worse, it’s based on a film that’s all about time travel, and anyone who knows me can tell you that I’m not a fan of time travel, because nine out of ten times, the concept is implemented such that it’s riddled with plot holes.

Congratulations, A Sound of Thunder. You’re a statistic.

Upon starting a new game, we are told in static images the start of a story, where three men appear out of nowhere in the middle of a wild jungle 65 billion years in the past. It would be safe, given the theme of the game, to assume that they’ve time-traveled for one reason or another. Fast-forward a couple of images, and we get a glimpse of the guys pumping lead into a hapless dinosaur. In Chicago, one week later, everything turns decidedly purple for a brief period of time, before it turns into, um, a jungle. Just like that. At this point, the game starts to use its engine for the first time, and from an isometric view, we’re treated to seeing our protagonist, Travis Ryer, get out of a taxi only to be suddenly attacked by tiny frogs. And by frogs, I mean dinosaurs. Thanks, GameFAQs, for clarifying that for me. Clearly, pre-requisite knowledge of the film’s story is required.

Unfortunately, if you had bought the game at its release date and planned a trip to the movies to make sense of it all, you would have had to wait a further seven months before it hit cinemas. Give a pat on the back to the geniuses behind that idea. But if you had watched the film, or consulted Wikipedia like I did, you would know what was really going on. You see, Travis is actually part of a service that offers wealthy folks to hunt prehistoric animals, thanks to a nifty time machine. To avoid time paradoxes, the hunters can only kill creatures that are destined to die and are prohibited to take anything back.

So it happens that on one dinosaur-hunting expedition, an explorer decides to screw with time by stepping on a harmless butterfly, hence the random creatures wandering around Chicago. For, changes are now happening in “waves”--buildings are decaying, people are vanishing, and so forth at set intervals--to what life would be had that butterfly magically disappeared 65 billion years before. We haven’t started shooting anything yet, and I can already ask half a dozen pointless questions that I know won’t get answered.

Naturally, Travis, having the privilege of being this game’s saviour, embarks on a journey to make things right again, and you assume control of him as he searches for a Sonia Rand, who invented the time machine. The first thing you’ll notice, while tiny frogs dinosaurs are trying to tear your health down no less, is how the only way to efficiently dispatch of them (and all enemies, for that matter) is to use the lock-on feature. And after dying once or twice, you’ll learn that the only way to stay alive against such dinosaurs while locked on is to keep moving. As you’d expect, it quickly becomes repetitive, going from room to room and repeating the same drill. The lack of variety in weapons--limited to the traditional machine gun, shotgun, grenade launcher, and not much else besides the rare bomb that can slow time Max Payne-style--doesn’t help matters, either.

This monotony is broken up somewhat by the odd puzzle. These puzzles consist of pushing boxes around in order to open doors, hit switches, and anything else to progress the level. There’s not a lot more to them, and just like the action elements, they get old too soon into the game. Similarly, though the occasional driving section can be viewed as a welcome change of pace, it’s more of a chore than anything, with over-sensitive handling making it difficult to drive your vehicle through conveniently small gaps in roadblocks--this in isometric view with dinosaurs behind you chasing your arse.

However, if there’s one thing the game does do right, it’s that it takes full advantage of the whole “time waves” plot point. As you progress through the game, the surroundings slowly become more dangerous for our intrepid hero, as they turn wilder and greener with new creatures, including even bigger dinosaurs and hazardous plant life, and new obstacles (and in turn, a new box puzzle here and there) cropping up. Sure, you’ll still be doing the same locking-on and the same strifing and the same shooting, but the changes in scenery makes going through each level more bearable, thanks to some pretty distinct surroundings.

Just two words are needed to sum up A Sound of Thunder, and they’re “stripped down”. Maybe that’s not much of a surprise to you, considering it’s on the Game Boy Advance, a portable with four buttons and a D-pad, but when I casually mention that the game uses old-fashioned passwords to help you save your progress, you really start to wonder how much effort was put into it. And that’s a shame, because despite its generally poor execution and lame plot (the film was widely panned by critics), it did have some potential and might have benefited from being on a home console in full 3D glory instead. If the gameplay were less shallow--having more species of dinosaurs and some decent, original puzzles relevant to the constantly changing environment would be a good start--who knows, this could have been enjoyable.

Hang on, they tried that and canned it. Better leave it to someone else next time.

Rating: 4/10

Ben's avatar
Community review by Ben (July 22, 2008)

Ben used to freelance for HonestGamers. Now he spends his spare time dying repeatedly on Spelunky.

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