Between the lack of usable buttons and its modest graphics capabilities, the Game Boy Advance isn't an optimal system for first-person shooters. Doom and Duke Nukem 3D were ported to it just fine, but games that pushed the envelope--like James Bond: 007 Nightfire and Medal of Honor Underground--ended up ugly and uncontrollable. For Serious Sam Advance, the developers kept things simple and played to the GBA's strengths. There aren't as many puzzles as there were in the PC game, there aren't as many levels, and you can't jump or go swimming either, but all of the great weapons are here and the levels have enough surprises waiting behind each corner to keep your adrenaline going. Ultimately, though, Serious Sam Advance comes up short because there just aren't enough levels to play.
The pistol is one of the first weapons Sam receives.
The GBA game is similar to the PC game in a number of ways. The story looks ahead to the year 2014, when humanity is brought to the brink of extinction by an alien race. You control a character named Sam Stone, a lone warrior that has been selected to travel into Earth's distant past and stop the aliens before they have a chance to infiltrate and weaken human society. Long story short: The aliens follow Sam back into the past and the fighting gets serious. Just like the PC game, levels are set in exotic locations around ancient Egypt and Rome. Also like the PC game, Sam has a wild arsenal of weapons--10 in all--such as a chainsaw, tommy gun, minigun, and rocket launcher.
Clearly, Serious Sam Advance doesn't pack the same audio-visual punch that the PC version did. Nonetheless, it stacks up well compared to the other first-person shooters that are already available for the GBA. The music is forgettable, but the bullet and monster sound effects complement the onscreen action nicely. The environments have a believable 3D look to them, and the textures that make up the walls and decorations aren't muddy or grainy like the textures in similar games (Medal of Honor Underground comes to mind). The enemies do appear pixilated up close, which seems to be the case in every FPS on the GBA, but the developers wisely made sure that monster skin tones don't have a habit of blending in with the environment. If you see a green splotch standing in front of a brown door up ahead, chances are it's a monster. For the most part, the frame rate is decent, although there are plenty of places where the action slows down or stutters to keep up. These instances usually happen in large, open areas when there are a half-dozen monsters and their projectiles onscreen, along with a few weapons packs sitting around.