Eye of the Beholder, Game Boy Advance

The Game Boy Advance version of the classic RPG, Eye of the Beholder, was developed by Pronto Games and first published by Infogrames in 2002. While it does follow the basics of the original, is it considerably different in many respects. It’s also a relatively poor conversion overall.

Character creation is where I first began to notice pointless differences to the original. In the character creation process you choose a name first (not last, as it should be in Eye of the Beholder); then you choose a ‘miniature’, which represents each character in combat; then a gender; then an alignment; then a class; then you roll your character’s stats. Unlike in the original you can only re-roll a character’s attributes if you don’t like them, but you cannot manually modify them. Races and classes are different to the original, and the character creation process as a whole is just not as well structured or as well thought-out as in the original.

The exploration sections are first-person, with combat cutting to an isometric viewpoint when it happens. The game begins roughly the same as the original, with the sewer entrance collapsing behind you and the layout of the dungeon more or less the same as in the original, although there are differences – like there being no lever to open the first door; no way to drop items onto pressure plates (you have to face them, then press the action button to activate them, which is weird); the ability to talk to some monsters before you fight them, which trigger pointless cut scenes, and turn-based combat.

Combat, when you encounter a monster, cuts to a separate battle screen, and even though you might only see one monster in first-person view you will be faced with many more when combat starts. As mentioned above: combat is turn-based in this adaptation, and frankly it’s very basic and not very good. You can move your characters around (only diagonally) with the d-pad and choose their actions via a menu. When you win a battle the game tells you how much experience you earned, and whether there was any loot gained or not.

You can access a map by pressing Start, and you can rest your characters to heal and memorise spells, but no food is required so you can rest as often as you like (although you do get interrupted by monsters while sleeping so it’s best done in a quiet dead end somewhere, where your back is protected). You can’t seem to sidestep in first-person mode, which is disappointing, and monsters aren’t seen moving around the corridors either (they will just stand there until you move adjacent to them, when they’ll attack). Equipping new items is also unnecessarily confusing. For example: the interface doesn’t make it clear what is already equipped, or what swapping out a piece of armour or a weapon does, in terms of attribute changes. I got the feeling when playing this game that the developers didn’t know what they were doing when they made it. They took a classic game, made the changes they wanted, and ruined it in the process.

It’s annoying that Pronto Games decided to change so much, which has resulted in a game that is vastly sub-standard to the original Eye of the Beholder, and it really needn’t have been. The cut scenes are badly-written; the monsters are indistinct and have no character, and monster AI is poor. Even by handheld standards this game is clunky and un-advanced. Some people might enjoy playing this port, but experienced Eye of the Beholder players will undoubtedly hate it. I thought it was crap, frankly.

More: Eye of the Beholder on Wikipedia
Steam: Eye of the Beholder trilogy on Steam
GOG: Eye of the Beholder trilogy on GOG.com

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