Now defunct publisher Crave was the first company to release a Men in Black game based on the animated series, doing so on Nintendo’s Game Boy Color. Although there were two other games based on the Men in Black animated series for the Game Boy Color, the third and final game released by Crave before they lost the license to Infogrames loses the numeral three and goes back to basics with the similarly titled to their first Game Boy Color game, Men in Black: The Series, on Game Boy Advance. Basic is a good word to describe Men in Black: The Series as it’s a game that’s as simple as it comes, and that’s not to be taken as a compliment as in “it takes the series back to basics” or “it’s a throwback to a simpler type of game”. Men in Black: The Series is one of the most forgettable licensed games out there that gets just about everything wrong.
Men in Black: The Series is composed of six stages, neither of which are linked by any type of narrative, so in that respect, it emulates the episodic nature of the source material. Every mission starts out with Zed instructing you that aliens are up to something and it’s up to you as either Agent J or K to put a stop to it. There’s no deep story, no boss characters, villains from the series or some grand plot to foil, just one mission after another until the game is over which doesn’t take very long.
This game is a very difficult thing to say anything nice about as there’s really not much it does right and it’s even hard to find out where to start. The controls are probably a good place as they’re needlessly complicated given that this is a pretty simplistic 2-D side-scroller. I picked up this game as a loose cart with no manual, and within the first part of the opening stage, I got stuck. I fell down a platform and couldn’t proceed left, nor right and I couldn’t jump either. That’s right, this is a 2-D side-scroller where you can’t jump. Instead you have to figure out there’s certain ledges that you can grab on to ascend upwards and it’s difficult to figure out in the stage construction just what can and cannot be used for this purpose. The “A” button, that which is normally reserved for jumping in these type of games, only puts your character into a hilarious sprint that has some of the worst running animations ever. Whether you’re using either Agent J or K, neither of which you can choose to be, you simply start as one and then switch to the other when you die, both look like they’re doing curls with baby weights whilst flailing their legs.
The awkwardness just doesn’t come down to movement, but combat as well. Normally in an action game you would just hit a button to shoot, but first you have to hold the “R” trigger like it’s Resident Evil and there’s no real reason why this is in the game when just hitting a shoot button would’ve sufficed. Fighting enemies is also a chore as they always seem to exist just off-screen where they can hit you but you can’t see them and they take a lot of shots to kill. You can pick up new weapons within levels, like the noisy cricket, complete with recoil and rapid fire guns, but they exhaust their ammunition pretty quickly. About the only useful weapon is an unlimited ammo freeze gun, and that’s only because you need it to freeze certain enemies to complete an objective in the first stage.
Now that I’ve addressed the awful animation, controls and combat, it’s time to address the biggest problem with Men in Black: The Series: The games levels and how you get around them. MIB isn’t a straight point A-to-point B side-scroller, but rather you’re thrown into maze-like environments where in order to progress you have to complete simple objectives like killing all enemies, diffusing bombs (done by walking into them) or like mentioned above, freezing a certain enemy and then collecting them. These mundane tasks are made so frustrating by the way the levels and the rules of the game that are always stacked against you. As if it wasn’t a challenge not being able to jump nor being able to pick out necessary hand holds to go up, you suffer fall damage which wouldn’t be so bad except there’s no quick descend option so you might just simple want to go down one level, only to fall and lose a large portion of your health or die. Death sends you all the way back to the start of a level, and with no map or indication where you need to go, it isn’t very easy to get very close to finishing a stage only to get turned around and not know where the last part of your objective is.
Almost above all else is that Men in Black: The Series on the Game Boy Advance doesn’t really do anything interesting with the license. What few movies there’s been, not discounting the comic book source material, have had interesting aliens just as background fodder, and in this game you fight the same few bad guys over and over again with no boss encounters to speak of. About as interesting as things get enemy wise is a level where aliens are hiding as ordinary objects so you’ll walk by a couch or a coat rack and then have them come to life and attack you which is kinda cool, but this is only one level. One stage has an interesting twist where you have to use your neuralizer to erase the memories of pedestrians, but this is made a chore by the fact that without sunglasses, which your character seems to be wearing, you lose a life. Before you can start neuralizing enemies, you have to first find sunglasses which you lose I should mention if you get hit at all, though they can be picked up.
I don’t like to be a critic who is mean and in all the games I look at, I always try to find at least something positive to say but in the case of Men in Black: The Series on Game Boy Advance, there really isn’t. The game is incredibly short, the controls are bad, the levels are confusing to navigate and this really could have been anything other than an MIB game and it would make no difference. Games like these are the reason that licensed games like this don’t exist anymore and create the stigma that all titles of this ilk are bad when at times that isn’t the case. If you see the black suits comin’ and putting their shades on, asked for them to wipe your memory of this game.
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