Whether you know him best as the Man Without Fear or as Ben Affleck covered in red vinyl, Daredevil is a hot property right now. The recent release of the film has led to a variety of merchandise tie-ins, one of which is a Game Boy Advance game from Encore Software. Daredevil is blind, but a radar sense allows him to see things more clearly than anyone with 20/20 vision. He is the Marvel Comics equivalent of DC's Batman--a lawyer by day who apprehends criminals at night using nothing more than his own athleticism and a custom baton made from stainless steel. The GBA game is acceptable for what it is--a side-scrolling action game in which you fight level after level of armed thugs--but even so, the character's abilities are implemented poorly and the overall design comes across as an attempt to capitalize on the nostalgia of moviegoers who aren't necessarily avid video game players.
The game's story and aesthetics tie in loosely with the movie. Kingpin is running a propaganda campaign that has every criminal in the city hunting for Daredevil. In order to clear his name, you have to fight them all, including boss characters such as the movie versions of Elektra and Bullseye, as well as Kirigi, Echo, Turk, and the Sewer King from the comic book. The artwork and settings are drawn in a distinctively comic book fashion, accented by bright solid colors and obscured by large caption boxes whenever the dialogue warrants. The levels are set in different areas of New York City, primarily the rooftops, sewers, and dock areas, although there are occasions when you'll fight on top of cars during rush hour or in subway tunnels stocked with active trains. You won't see the GBA's visual capabilities put to much use, however, since there aren't any special effects to speak of, and the occasional instances of overlapping backgrounds are few and far between. There are a few good moments, though, such as when you beat up a portable toilet and a startled gangster pops out. The soundtrack is also solid, as it's much more cinematic than what you'll find in the typical GBA action game.
For your part, you'll spend most of the game punching enemies and collecting power-up items. This sort of fundamental beat-'em-up formula is nothing new to anyone who's played games like Final Fight, Spider-Man, or Contra, but Daredevil is especially minimal in its approach. You have three basic attacks--a punch, a jump kick, and a baton swing--and two combo attacks that you can execute with different sequences of the attack buttons. Items distributed throughout the levels allow you to collect additional lives and earn temporary power upgrades, such as invincibility or super strength. The enemies don't do much except stand still and wait for you to reach them, and the boss characters are the only enemies who have more than one attack at their disposal. Surprisingly, the game is still moderately difficult, because the collision programming is such that your attacks won't always connect when they should, and most enemy attacks take precedence over your own.
The main reason that Daredevil is so glib and uninteresting is that the character's powers aren't incorporated into the game nearly as well as they could be. Much like Batman or Spider-Man, Daredevil is a character who lurks on rooftops and can swing and somersault his way onto the criminals below. Other than launching yourself off a few ladders and outcroppings, there aren't many occasions when you'll find yourself leaping through the air. His radar ability is similarly half-baked. It isn't required to find your way through any of the levels, and you'll only need it to reveal hidden items. Just one of the boss battles gives you the opportunity to use this ability as an advantage over your opponent: A character called Echo challenges Daredevil to a fight on top of a moving subway train, and you can see while inside dark tunnels, but she cannot. The game needed more sequences like this. As for his special baton, there's an item you can collect that allows you to throw it at enemies to stun them--but you have no way of knowing when this ability has worn off, since there aren't any onscreen indicators to provide you with such information.
Most players won't need much time to make their way through the entire game. It takes roughly two or three hours to traverse the 23 levels between the downtown area and Kingpin's penthouse, and another two or three hours to gather all the DD icons scattered throughout each stage. These icons allow you to unlock an assortment of 40 different secrets, such as illustrations, movie images, alternate costumes, and a level select.
A lot of people are likely to purchase this Game Boy Advance version of Daredevil to extend their enjoyment of the film. That's fine, but it's not the sort of game that will hold your attention for very long. Daredevil is an exciting, explosive character, and that energy doesn't manifest itself in this game.