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Go! Go! Beckham! - Adventure on Soccer Island

Video Game Reviews

Ratings are based on a five-point scale, in homage to the the late, great Next Generation Magazine.

Released in Europe
Gameboy Advance

Rating: * * *
Go Go Beckham! - video game reviews
Go Go Beckham screen shots - click for closeup, eh

February 15, 2005

One of the things about the Gameboy Advance that has surprised me the most has been the sheer absense of quality two-dimentional platform games. Aside from Nintendo's reisues of their Super NES classics like Super Mario World and Yoshi's Island, what has there been? Three Castlevania and two Metroid games that all play exactly the same? Five revisions of Super Metroid.

Almost everything else has been terrible, and I think that's because most developers have lost those skills they once had in the past; the age of 3D polygon worlds has renered sprite-based graphics obsolete. I never would have believed that if someone ten years ago predicted this would happen. Perhaps this is why I have so little enthusiasm for most of today's console games. Hardly anybody makes real videogames anymore.

I suspect that's also why I'm so willing to defend a title like Go Go Beckham. Denki's mascot platformer from Europe is excessively repetitious, and after six or seven levels you begin to suspect you've already seen everything, and the developers are just padding the clock. This game wouldn't be remembered among the giants of the 16-bit era, but the gameplay and design is so solid you don't mind.

The clever hook in this game is that you control a soccer player who uses the ball as a weapon. This was used over a decade ago in a game called Marko's Magic Football, but that was a pointless gimmick in a lousy, wretched excuse for a game (why it appeared on every console known to man remains a mystery). Go Go Beckham's game worlds are designed with soccer skills in mind. Kicking, jumping, knocking the ball with your head - these are all employed to great effect.

There are a number of enemies that manage to steal your ball and gleefully knock it away, bonus balls can be discovered, and levels are completed by kicking the ball through a goal. I'm impressed by these smart touches; you'll have to occasionally wander around alone and unguarded.

Also, in the typical Mario vein, there are many gems, coins, eggs, and balls to find. For some levels, this is almost pedestrian, but for others it can be a real challenge. I keep hoping that some discovery would lead to a bonus world or extra stage, something to change the pace a little. Here were are in 2005, and still I'm impressed by the warp rooms and cloud zones from 1985's Super Mario Bros.

Go Go Beckham looks terrific, in that retro Super Nintendo sort of way, overtly cute and cuddly and all that. Perhaps, once again, this is nostalgia creeping up, but I enjoy these graphics. I honestly expected dozens of games like this to appear on the Advance, but that never happened. Why is that, I suppose?

Which brings me back to the repetition thing. Couldn't Denki's designers do more than re-color the same backgrounds over and over? Would it have killed them to inject a little variety? I don't mind being given only four game worlds (with nine or ten levels each), don't jerk me around with palette swaps. Hell, just put up some clouds or change the time of day. They're just being lazy.

So we have a game that is merely good instead of great. We're not living in an age of greatness, anyway. We have to enjoy these little moments when we can.

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