Spy Hunter/Super Sprint (GBA)

Spy Hunter / Super Sprint
GBA (2005)

Destination Software’s combintation Spy Hunter/Super Sprint cartridge for the Gameboy Advance is perfect for brief gaming opportunities, whether they occur during your morning commute or afternoon bathroom breaks. While neither game provides days or even hours worth of depth, they’re both good enough to fill the dull breaks throughout your day. Unfortunately for fans of the original versions, both games suffer from the same two problems, mainly watered down conversions and inherent control issues — two side-effects resulting from cramming two classic arcade games (which originally used steering wheels) into a tiny Gameboy Advance cartridge.

Atari’s Super Sprint is the simpler (and slightly less frustrating) of the two to play. In this classic formula racing game, your goal is to be the first of four cars to complete four laps around a variety of racetracks. Throughout your races you’ll encounter obstacles, ranging from oil slicks to tornadoes. Small yellow wrenches that appear randomly can be exchanged between races for car upgrades.

Obviously, the game’s original steering wheel been replaced with the GBA’s very digital-feeling d-pad, turning the game’s original “violently whipping a steering wheel back and forth” experience into tiny little tap-tap-taps needed to correct your car’s steering. The controls are not nearly as frustrating as the fact that the race cars in this version appear to have been sculpted from nitroglycern — even the slightest wall tap causes your car to explode into a huge fireball. On second thought, maybe it’s the walls that are explosive, since you’ll often find yourseld driving right over the top of your fellow racers without even a nudge. The cars and some of the obstacles are so small, it’s hard to tell if the game has wonky collision detection or not. The game’s graphics and sound effects are surprisingly loyal to the original version. While the graphics have been slightly shrunk and the victory music may be missing a voice or two, everything is very recognizable and helps pull the game together.

Less cohesive is Spy Hunter, the other half of the collection. Porting Spy Hunter to consoles has never been an easy task, as the arcade cabinet included a steering yolk, five buttons, a gear shift and a gas pedal. And while gamers are willing to make certain concessions, there are certain things that simply cannot be missing. In Spy Hunter it’s the Peter Gunn theme, which sadly never materializes here. Ask a hundred people what they remember about Spy Hunter and the majority of them will mention the theme music. Without that, the game starts off on the wrong foot and never truly recovers.

Once again, anyone who’s ever played the original will find controlling the game using the GBA’s d-pad challenging. Pressing the d-pad up and down shifts between low and high gears, while left and right steer. Unfortunately for you, your spymobile seems is built from the same explosives as the cars in Super Sprint, meaning even the slightest rear end collision leads to fireball city, baby. Bumping them from the side isn’t much easier, as even slight taps will send your car careening off the road into yet another firey death. All of this is made even more difficult by the fact that Spy Hunter originally appeared on a vertical screen. On the GBA’s horizontal screen, you’ll need lightning-fast reflexes to get far at all.

While it’s hard to pick apart a package that retails for around $10, both games lost something in the translation. While either title should hold your attention for five minutes or so, any longer than that will quickly reveal both games’ flaws.

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