If you're unfamiliar with the BattleBots TV series, it's basically an exhibition in which two radio-controlled robots battle against one another in an arena full of kill saws, spikes, and pulverizers. The teams controlling the robots try to trash their opponents as much as possible, and they earn points based on aggressiveness, strategy, and showmanship. Thanks to design restrictions imposed by the organizers of the event, wedges and rotating saw blades are the most popular armaments, so it's not uncommon to see robots flipped over, gutted, and then pushed under the pulverizers, where they're rendered into scrap.
BattleBots: Beyond the BattleBox for the Game Boy Advance captures the essence of the show perfectly, at least when it comes to the aspects mentioned above. You have to be sure to check your expectations at the door, however, because while the game captures the spirit of the event, it doesn't quite live up to the production standards you're accustomed to.
Without a doubt, the game's weakest aspect is its graphics. They're not good. The five included arenas barely make use of the GBA's color palette, and the animation for all the hazards is extremely choppy. The 'bots themselves are also fairly simplistic. Their treads don't move very much, and the smoke trails that are meant to reflect damage instead resemble smudges of oil paint. Nevertheless, each 'bot exhibits enough detail in its treads and armaments to allow you to at least recognize your favorites. The cast of 18 standard 'bots includes popular creations from the last two seasons of the show, such as Diesector, Tazbot, and Toro. You can also make your own 'bots in the tournament mode and then use them in the exhibition and multiplayer modes. Just don't expect them to move as gracefully as they do on television.
After you get a couple of matches under your belt, you'll realize that the real problem is that the game tries very hard to incorporate all the little details of the TV show but never really excels at any particular aspect. For example, you can compete in four different weight classes and build your 'bot from dozens of various parts, but the parts and weight restrictions don't amount to much since they don't influence your ability to damage an opponent. As long as you can push the A button and lure your foes near the kill saws, all you need to worry about are your overall armor and power ratings. Likewise, there are a number of different weapons to choose from, such as maces, drills, saws, and lifter arms, and they're all pretty fun to use, but they're all identical in terms of the damage you can inflict.
Other unfortunate and minor flaws include CPU opponents that are easily tricked into sitting under pulverizers and a pit interface that's overly complicated. It can take more than 10 button presses just to fix your 'bot after a match, and sometimes the parts you purchase just disappear instead of being equipped. Still, creating your own 'bots is rather interesting despite the clunky interface, and the fighting itself is fun in that same mindless, button-masher sort of way that keeps people flocking to knock-off boxing games.
The game's audio and two extra gameplay modes are also worth mentioning. The music is fast-paced and clear, while the matches are full of digitized sound clips taken straight from the TV show. As for the extra modes, the game includes exhibition and multiplayer options that let you set up four-player brawls with adjustable time limits and additional power-up items. The power-up items actually bring a bit more depth to the game, so it's unfortunate that they're not available in the tournament mode.
In the final analysis, BattleBots: Beyond the BattleBox does have a certain charm about it, but not to the extent that anyone but die-hard fans of the TV series should risk their hard-earned dollars to play it. It's a shame, too, because you can feel a great game crying out from behind the flaws that are holding BattleBots: Beyond the BattleBox back.