Jet Grind Radio (Game Boy Advance) Review

Jet Grind Radio
Genre: Skating
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Developer: Vicarious Visions
Publisher: THQ
Release Date: June 23, 2003

In Jet Grind Radio, we have a game that was a hit for a home console that has been ported to the Game Boy Advance. Jet Grind Radio was a Dreamcast classic – will the GBA version equal the lofty status held by its predecessor?

It’s safe to say that Jet Grind Radio is one of those games where the story isn’t terribly relevant. It doesn’t really do much except move you from level to level. Basically, you’re in this gang galled the GG’s. The GG’s are embroiled in a gang war with other area groups, and your goal is to “tag” their territory (and your own) with graffiti.

Not so fast. In between you and your goal is a vicious police force that evidently has nothing to do aside from cracking down heavily on spray paint artists. While you’re tagging walls, you’ll be chased by cops, shot at by the police chief, and mowed down by large tanks. Seriously.

Jet Grind Radio’s gameplay is pretty straightforward, but takes some getting used to. The introductory scenes do a great job of easing you into the control scheme, but this is the kind of game that you’ll have to play a lot to get the hang of. Jet Grind Radio is played from an isometric view (think of EA’s old NBA Live/FIFA Soccer games for Genesis), which can get very confusing when you’re under bridges and buildings. The most difficult aspect of the game, though, is actually controlling the motion of your skater.

Pressing up on the control stick allows your skater to press forward, and holding R “boosts” your skates, meaning you’ll be going much faster. Now, this is where it gets tricky. Instead of pressing left and going left, Jet Grind Radio forces you to assume the perspective of the skater. This means that if the skater’s going south and you want him to make a right, you have to move the control stick right. It feels backwards at first, but it can be picked up in time.

Once you’ve mastered skating, the rest is pretty simple – B jumps and A sprays. Certain walls require you to press the control stick in different directions to tag the wall properly. Getting it perfect nets you major points, while making a mistake requires you to start from the top. And yes, it’s possible to spray paint while being shot at by the police.

Grinding can be accomplished simply by jumping on anything that’s grindable, which consists of a great number of things. Often, you’ll find long strings of spray paint cans on these grindable surfaces, which is good – you’ll use a lot of spray paint to do all the tagging you have to do in order to reach the next level.

If you’re playing one-player, you’ll be playing the Story mode. In Story mode, you’ll be going through your rival gangs’ turf and spraying the walls. Some levels require you to tag a number of different walls, while others only have a few spots that need a lot of directional work on your part. The levels are spacious, so you’ll often have to run through a level once or twice unsuccessfully before you get it right. Not that that’s a bad thing. In between levels, you may have to do a run of tricks to unlock other playable characters. The tricks are not only fun, but also enhance your mastery of the game.

Jet Grind Radio also features a comprehensive multi-player mode where you’ll compete against your buddies in various aspects of gameplay. And if that’s not enough, you can actually customize your own graffiti tags and use them during the game.

Visually, Jet Grind Radio is very impressive. The levels have lots of subtlety to them and never repeat themselves. It’s easy to figure out which aspects of the landscape you can grind on and which ones you can’t. And while the characters are small, the skating tricks they do are quite detailed and don’t all look the same. The graffiti itself can be changed to your liking, and it looks faithful to the original on the walls. The only gripe is the confusion that occurs when your character is underneath something. In that case, the character flashes, which can sometimes make the character hard to see. All in all, it’s easy to see the work that went into making this game look good, work that definitely paid off.

Take a listen to some of the songs on the soundtrack and tell me they don’t get you going. The techno soundtrack is perfect for the kind of game Jet Grind Radio is, and the songs will be in your head for some time after playing. As for the sound effects, they’re OK, though the police’s constant shouts of “Halt!” can become very grating. However, the authentic skating and spray paint sounds enable players to overlook the minor grievances here.

Fun Factor
One thing about Jet Grind Radio – it’s fun. The Story mode will keep you occupied for a while, and you can always explore the very spacious levels and perform some tricks if you so desire. The little things, such as the create-your-own-graffiti mode, will help ensure the game’s longevity. And you can always hook up with a friend and have some multi-player competition.

Gameplay: 8
Graphics: 8
Sound: 9
Fun Factor: 9

Short Attention Span Summary
Jet Grind Radio has made the transition from home console game to GBA port successfully. Newcomers will be able to appreciate the game’s intricacies and significant replay value. The story is somewhat goofy, and the skating control is difficult at first, but it works. Furthermore, so does everything else in this game. If you like skating games, or mission-based games with a degree of open-endedness, definitely give Jet Grind Radio a shot.