In the 8 and 16-bit era, developers had it somewhat relatively easy when it came to distilling a console game into a portable title: If you’re game is a side-scroller or played from an overhead perspective, just make that only smaller. That’s an over simplification, as I’m sure it was pretty hard to say, spin a late generation SNES game into a Game Boy title, but I’m sure it was a less daunting task to turn anything post PlayStation, Saturn, and Nintendo 64 into a Game Boy title, which happened frequently. In the case of Acclaim’s other big franchise of that time, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, the series was spun into a series of 2-D side-scrolling exploration games, which wouldn’t have been that bad a route for a game like Armorines: Project S.W.A.R.M to follow, but instead developer Neon placed the camera perspective overhead and the results are just as unspectacular as the game on the N64.
For those looking for more insight into the Armorines universe after playing the N64 game, you’re going to have to look for some comics as the Game Boy Color game has around the same amount of plot as the console game: You are an Armorine, bugs are bad, kill the bugs. Not that it made much difference in the N64 game as you didn’t see your character and the only real difference was what weapons you picked up, but this time you’re limited to just one character choice and again, don’t ask me for the name because I couldn’t remember it even if a gun was held to my head.
One of my big problems that really killed my enjoyment of the Armorines console game was that the graphics were often too dark to the point of not being able to see where I had to go, and I have an opposite problem with the Game Boy Color game: They’re too bright. It’s nice that the world is bright and colorful, but the graphics lack the necessary details to pick out things from the environment that tell you what can be interacted with and what can’t, which in turn gives this game the same problem as the N64 game in that it’s hard to know where to go. I stumbled around more than one level for a very long time before I had to reach out for help via video walkthroughs where I would find the solution I was looking for and say “wait, that was a ladder?!!”, and head to the next level immediately.
This is not limited to just things like ladders, but doors, keys and items as well. This is a very simplistic game: you wander around, shoot bugs, collect keys and open doors, occasionally fighting a boss until you move on to a new level. The levels themselves are pretty big to the point of excess and too often you’ll get a key and not sure what door it unlocks, or find a door and not know what they key even looked like. A level I had to throw in the towel on occurred near the very end where I had to fix a satellite which I couldn’t find, that I had to fix with what I can only describe as a red square that could have been anything.
All of this frustration is wrapped around a game that simply put isn’t that engaging. The two buttons on the system are both used for the game thing: shooting, with one allowing you to freely shoot and move in eight directions while the other locks you into one direction, which is by far the most helpful option as I didn’t even use the A-button at all. The weapons are just as unspectacular as the console game with your starting weapon, which resembles Grant’s cattle prod from Jurassic Park on SNES, being more helpful than any of the other part of your arsenal you’ll discover while exploring. The enemies you come up against are also more comical than scary, as in the console game they look like alien bugs, but here they just look like, well, actual bugs; Not particularly threatening.
Armorines could have perhaps made for a fun run-and-gun shooter along the lines of Contra, but unfortunately that’s not the game we got, instead we’re left with a bland dungeon crawling overhead action title that offers little in the way of helpful direction for the player. After this game and the game on the N64, it’s easy to see why Acclaim didn’t put an Armorines 2 into production.