Rocky on the Game Boy Advance follows in the footsteps of the Rocky games that are available for the GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox. It's a boxing game that puts you into the shoes of a young Rocky Balboa and lets you relive the events detailed in all five films of the Academy Award-winning motion-picture series. This pint-sized rendition includes most of the features you'll find in its console counterparts, but it also falls victim to the same shortcomings. Rocky isn't a great boxing game, and it doesn't quite deliver the same level of excitement as the films it's based on.
Nevertheless, the game lets you play as five different versions of Rocky during various stages of his career, as well as 22 other boxers. Most are generic jobbers with names like Dipper Brown and Big Yank Ball, but the opponents Rocky fought in the movies are here too. As you make your way through the movie mode, you'll relive each of Rocky's biggest fights with Apollo Creed, Clubber Lang, Ivan Drago, and Tommy Gunn. Other modes of play include exhibition, knockout, and versus. The exhibition and versus modes are exactly what you're used to in other fighting games, where you can set up custom matches between two characters and adjust the location and rules of the match. The knockout tournament is similar to the movie mode, except that there aren't any cutscenes and you don't have to work on building Rocky's stamina by playing the three training minigames.
When you're actually in the ring, you have a great deal of leeway in terms of the moves and strategies you can employ. Unfortunately, the overall design rewards button mashing and cheap tactics more than the effective use of punch combinations. You can throw jabs, hooks, and uppercuts with either hand, and you can chain hits together for punishing combos. At the same time, you can defend by backing away from the opponent or by dodging and blocking in five different ways. The controls aren't really responsive enough, however, to give you the speed required to keep a good punch-dodge-punch rhythm going. The computer opponents also have a tendency to interrupt punishing combos but allow you to just whale on them with a never-ending stream of straight jabs. That's bad news for boxing aficionados, but good news for gamers who just want to relive the Rocky films and beat the game quickly.
Rocky also isn't too impressive when it comes to visuals and audio. The backgrounds are two-dimensional and don't have much movement to them, although they are colorful and similar to those in the films. The characters are huge, and the animation for all their punches is great, but there isn't a similar amount of detail to the rest of their body movements. They move like angry, flesh-toned robots. The game does get a big boost from the cutscenes that are played during the movie mode, since they use actual still frames and dialogue from the Rocky movies. The familiar Rocky theme music plays when you win a match and the sound effects are decent enough to remind you of being ringside at a real fight.
Overall, Rocky is OK if you just want to reexperience the events from the five films. It's just good enough to take you through the 20 or so opponents between Apollo Creed and Tommy Gunn--it's not something you'll want to play if you're serious about boxing games.