By all rights The Scorpion King: Sword of Osiris for the GBA should be an abomination. It is a licensed game in a sea of shitty licensed games for the GBA, and it is based on The Scorpion King, a movie, starring The Rock, that was a spinoff of The Mummy, a pretty lackluster series to begin with. Granted, I have never seen the film version of The Scorpion King, but I don't think it is bold of me to assume it isn't any good. Maybe it is because my expectations were so insanely low, but I was surprised to find that it's not that bad. Sure, it's nothing amazing or unique, but it is a very competent game.
The quality of the game isn't quite so surprising after it has been revealed that it was developed by WayForward Technologies, a company known as the unsung heroes of 2D games over the last ten or so years. With games like Contra 4, the Wii remake of A Boy and His Blob, and the Shantae games, it is easy to see why. They are one of the few makers of fluidly animated sprite art in an age that has forsaken such quality. If I wasn't making it obvious enough, I have a lot of respect for them.
The graphics of The Scorpion King is the most impressive feature. Sure the digitized pictures of The Rock are awful, but everything else is quite nice. The detail of the levels, the look of the sprites, and the quality of the animation are all great, and I dare say on par with Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow. There are even nice little touches like darkened areas with candles with lighting effects that layer on top of the player's sprite. The levels are a bit samey, but overall it is good. The music starts off fuzzy, but as the game picks up there are some decent tunes.
It's not all great, though. The worst part is that the game plays very bland, though solidly, and it doesn't do anything unique. The A button jumps, the B button attacks, the L button switches weapons, and the R button allows the player to walk, for some reason. Holding down B does a spinning attack, similar to the the automatic whip spin found in a few Castlevania games. From this stance, pressing a direction will cause The Rock to do a special attack in that direction. For the sword it is a lunge, and with the other things, whatever they are, it is a throwing attack in which they boomerang out and back. The delay required to enter the spinning stance makes these largely useless, though I was able to beat the first bosses by standing under them on a platform and continually attacking upward.
I wasn't impressed by the level designs in any particular way. It is all pretty standard platformer stuff, with ropes, moving platforms, wall jumps, and ceiling swinging. I guess the part where a sandstorm periodically blows The Rock back to the nearest wall is kind of neat, but it's not unique. There isn't much that is remarkable about The Scorpion King, but it is something of a miracle that it isn't a completely unplayable mess. I wouldn't recommend the game to anyone in particular, but if some kid were to have grown up playing it, I'm okay with that.