While the Grand Theft Auto series may be one of the most popular things going on in gaming these days, most people don't really know too much about the roots of the series. Yes, the "III" in Grand Theft Auto III does, in fact, mean that there were two games out before it. Those two games were top-down, 2D games that had the same basic structure as the newer games in the series, but it was done on a much smaller scale. That smaller scale is now available in an all-new GTA adventure for the Game Boy Advance. GTA Advance basically takes the gameplay from GTA1, adds in some of the conventions of GTA III, and brings along a rather dull and poorly written story, too. There's some nostalgic gameplay here, but by and large GTA Advance just isn't much fun.
GTA Advance merges the look and feel of GTA1 with some of the gameplay conventions from GTA III.
GTA Advance takes place in Liberty City, the stomping grounds of GTA III. The story puts you in the role of a guy named Mike. When the game opens, you and another guy named Vinnie are getting ready to skip town with a bunch of money. But the escape goes bad and Vinnie is a victim of a car bomb. So Mike sets out to find Vinnie's killers and make them all pay. Along the way, you'll go on a lot of pretty standard missions, including taking out specific enemies, blowing up a building, checkpoint racing, and picking up and dropping off hookers, and so on. The story is conveyed via your mission briefings, which cut away from the top-down view and give you two large, static character heads to look at while reading the game's dialogue. The game doesn't really have the ironic sense of humor that helps make the GTA games great, and the dialogue is written in a very plain way that really lacks punch. These things make it easy to not care at all about the game's overall plot.
The look and feel of GTA Advance take things back to the original Grand Theft Auto, though there have been some changes. Some of the side missions introduced in GTA III are here, so you'll be able to hop in a cop car and go on vigilante missions, drive a taxi, play paramedic for a day, and so on. You can enter yourself into races for some extra cash, and the game has 100 hidden packages for you to find. Every tenth package adds another item to your hideout, which is where you go to save the game. Annoyingly, picking up a weapon from your hideout doesn't give you the maximum ammo count, so if you want to roll fully strapped, you'll have to enter and exit your hideout over and over again to recollect weapons until you've picked up enough bullets to do the job.