The year 1992 saw the release of the id Software-developed and Apogee-published Wolfenstein 3D, which many credit with helping popularize the first-person shooter genre, originally released on the PC as a shareware title with the first episode initially available, with players having to purchase the remaining five episodes. Given the success of the title, it was highly unsurprising that the game saw many ports, among which was one to the GameBoy Advance thanks to BAM! Entertainment, allowing a new generation of gamers to experience the title, but is it a good experience?
Players start each of Wolfenstein’s six episodes armed with only a pistol and a handful of bullets, although they’ll frequently find bullet clips throughout each episode’s nine floors (ten counting the secret ones players might or might not be able to access), and occasionally, new weapons more effective against the various Nazi soldiers. The maximum bullet capacity is ninety-nine, and once players run out, they must resort to using the protagonist’s knife, a pathetically-weak weapon. The hero’s health also caps out at 100%, with occasional items refilling his health, and dropping to zero percent will start the current floor from scratch and cost B.J. a life, B.J. only armed with a pistol upon restarting, although players can reload their previous save if they don’t want to find weapon upgrades again.
Racking up a high score thanks especially to golden treasure found throughout the floors will occasionally reward B.J. with an extra life, and in the end, the gameplay is more than functional, although there are occasional instances, especially if B.J. starts a level with low life and powerful weapons, where the player might find himself or herself stuck. Bosses at the end of each episode can also occasionally be frustrating if the player doesn’t have the most powerful machine gun available at some points throughout a few floors, but otherwise, the gameplay is certainly enjoyable.
Control is okay, with easy movement throughout each floor, although it’s somewhat easy to lose oneself within each stage, given the unfortunate lack of in-game maps, and in some instances finding secret passages is actually mandatory towards moving to the next level. There’s also the inability to save the game in the middle of each floor, with save opportunities only coming once the player has completed a level. In the end, interaction is only slightly above average.
The narrative is fairly scarce, with brief story descriptions at the end of each episode, and more plot in between floors would have certainly been welcome and accounted for a better-paced storyline, but the plot is by no means bad.
There’s also a noticeable lack of music in the GameBoy Advance port, and the sound effects, particularly those when collecting golden treasure, may annoy some. The bullet sounds, though, are certainly passable, alongside the German B.J.’s antagonists occasionally utter upon spotting him and upon dying, but actual music in the GBA version would have certainly been welcome.
Wolfenstein was one of the first first-person shooters, and the graphics certainly show, containing a fair amount of pixilation, with distant view being indiscernible and closer view being clearer. In the end, an okay-looking game.
Finally, each episode takes somewhere from one to two hours to complete, depending especially upon whether or not the player loses himself or herself within any of each episode’s floors. Ultimately, Wolfenstein 3D is a half-decent port that hits most of the right notes with regards to its gameplay, although other aspects definitely leave room for improvement, such as the story, sound, and graphics, but those who have never experienced this title will certainly find this version accessible.
+Solid first-person shooter gameplay.
+Multiple difficulties enhance replay value.
-Can be hard at times, even on the easiest difficulty.
-No in-game maps.
-No mid-level saving.
-Story is thinly spread out.
-Graphics are pixelated.
The Bottom Line:
An okay first-person shooter.
Platform: GameBoy Advance
Game Mechanics: 7/10
Lasting Appeal: 8/10
Playing Time: Less than 10 Hours