"OK, a quick lesson for all the less-British people out there. Here in the UK David Beckham is a bit of a legend. He is captain of the England football team, he married a Spice Girl (the ugly one), he gives his children daft names (step forward Brooklyn and Romeo), he lives in a castle, he owns half of Devon, and he breathes fire. I made the last two up, by the way. "
OK, a quick lesson for all the less-British people out there. Here in the UK David Beckham is a bit of a legend. He is captain of the England football team, he married a Spice Girl (the ugly one), he gives his children daft names (step forward Brooklyn and Romeo), he lives in a castle, he owns half of Devon, and he breathes fire. I made the last two up, by the way.
And now, thanks to the lovely, wonderful people at Rage and Denki (the people behind the utterly fantastic Denki Blocks), David Beckham is the star of his own videogame. Only it isn't a football sim (although there is a Beckham football game on the market). Oh no, what we have with the rather spectacularly-named Go! Go! Beckham! Adventure On Soccer Island is.. well... a platformer. Y'see, the downright mean Mr. Woe is up to no good on Soccer Island, so the locals call on the only person that can help them - yep, our man Dave. Now, playing as Golden Balls, you must run, jump, collect coins and gems, and make your way to the end of several themed stages. It all screams 'CASH IN!!!', especially when you consider that it was released not long after the World Cup ended, and as such people pretty much avoided it. The dozen or so people who actually did buy it did so probably for little other than the novelty factor (myself included, I freely admit). So imagine the surprise upon discovering that... well..... it's actually... good!
The closest comparison I can make is to McDonaldland on the NES, not because they are both platformers, but because they are both platformers based on an unlikely licence that go on to exceed expectations in a rather triumphant manner. What is so refreshing about both of these titles is that the developers clearly realised that licence alone is not enough to pull in the punters, and as such actually took the time to build a *gasp* fun game around the basic premise. What that translates to in terms of G!G!B!AOSI (side note: - don't you just adore that abbreviation?) is a simple, yet charming, platform romp. The fundamental game is actually painfully familiar. You run, jump, and use a football as a weapon against enemies (the fact that Amiga classic Soccer Kid was re-released on GBA at about the same time as this game came out only serves to highlight the fact that this has all been done before), you collect coins and gems, pieces of fruit regain your health and, well, that's about it really. However, unoriginal as it may be, there are few platformers on the GBA at present that are so polished and involving. Go! Go! starts off with some relatively simple training stages, as Becks is guided by an impossibly cute old man who looks like he is Grandfather to one of the Village People - basically all you do is travel a short distance left to right to get used to the controls and the ball skills. Most games would leave it at that, but in Go! Go! even the training levels have some replay value - after the very first training session, seemingly (and literally) a walk in the park, you are told that you only got 12 out of the 88 coins on the stage (unless you're a smart-ass who found all the hidden coins first time round, in which case you can skip the next few sentences. Clever bastard.) Replay the stage, and explore a bit, and you may well find the hidden tunnel that contains oodles of cash. Feeling suitably smug, you finish the level again, only to find yourself four coins short. And finding those coins is actually quite a challenge. Completely superfluous really, since you don't strictly need the coins to progress, but the fact that they bothered including such replayability in simple training levels shows that a lot of thought has gone into the game, and this favourable first impression is one that is sure to stick as you progress.
After you've trained with the old dude, karate kid style, it's time to move on to the adventure proper. And this is where the true beauty of the game really kicks in. Although the fact that the number of 'worlds' can be counted on the fingers of one hand doesn't bode well, wait 'til you see just how many stages are present in each world - seriously, in total the whole game contains dozens of (not exactly short) levels. And while the settings for the stages are pure pulp platform cliché (grassy forests, murky caves, the evil villain's sinister residence etc..... it's sure been done before) they are all presented with such energy and enthusiasm that it's impossible to hold the platform-by-numbers formula of the stages against the finished product.
And though the settings for the stages may be unoriginal, there are actually one or two nice touches peppered throughout the proceedings. In the cave levels for example, it is possible to take the ball and hoss it straight into the stalactites on the ceiling - in turn bringing them crashing down and crushing any enemies below. Although at first this may leave you grinning like an intoxicated simpleton at a strip joint, you soon realise that you too can be hurt by these cave-ins, and many of the 'locks' that need to be undone to progress (by kicking the ball at them) are located perilously close to the stalactites, turning the tables somewhat. Other pleasant touches include the option to change whether the camera focuses on Becks or on the ball - while focusing on the character that you're controlling has advantages that I really hope I don't need to explain, shifting focus to the ball, before twatting it up into the sky can reveal hidden goodies that would be otherwise out of sight. Simple on paper, but it's this sort of little touch that really raises Golden Balls' adventure above the competition (well, the competition that doesn't come from Sega's blue hedgehog, or from Ninty themselves that is....), helped out no end by the fact that the controls for G!G!B!AOSI are pitched just right - jumps feel precise, and the ball control is easy to get to grips with - you'll be bending it like Beckham in no time.
Presentation-wise this game is one of two halves (and the football puns keep coming.... sorry) - while the environments are beautifully rendered, Becks himself... well... he looks like a child. And he's really, really tiny. I mean, what's all that about? This game makes fantastic use of the GBAs colour palette. Vibrant sunsets, cool blue caves, underwater sections....... the levels themselves are gorgeous examples of what the Game Boy Advance can do. But, as stated, Beckham himself looks.... well, rubbish. And it also must be said that the movement just isn't as crisp as would be liked - although the game is mercifully free of slowdown, it does become victim to some blurring at times, which can be off-putting. The sound, too, is pretty poor. The tunes and effects are really nothing special, and while the tinny beeps are inoffensive enough to warrant leaving the sound on, I must admit that at one time, I'd been playing for an hour or so before I realised that I didn't have the sound on. The tunes really are that memorable then....
Go! Go! is a fine platform adventure - not up there with Mario and Sonic, but certainly very high up the platform hierarchy. While it may be a cash in, it pulls it off surprisingly well. And while it's presentation may falter occasionally, the gameplay is a pleasantly fresh-feeling experience. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that I'd genuinely welcome a G!G!B!AOSI sequel, and when was the last time you can remember thinking that about a licensed game?
Community review by tomclark (March 07, 2004)
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