Everyone wants a sure thing, to get all of the reward without taking any of
the risk. In the gaming world that means one of two things: a sequel or a movie
license. Just look at a short list of this year’s crop of top games: Halo
2, Metal Gear Solid
3, The Sims 2, GTA:
San Andreas, Doom 3, Metroid
It’s not that these aren’t high-quality games; it’s just that original, creative,
innovative titles are scarce. Few publishers are willing to risk millions in
development costs just to make Katamari
It works the same way in Hollywood, which constantly floods us with useless
sequels and Stephen King movies.
that’s why I love Pixar. With
the exception of Toy
Story 2, Pixar deliberately and relentlessly creates original characters,
new stories, and creative settings time and again. Their list of successes is
unrivaled, and made all the more impressive when you consider that they have
never licensed anyone else’s work. The team at Pixar simply oozes talent like
they have no control over it.
Of course, not everyone wants to take such risks. THQ scooped up the license to The
Incredibles quite a ways back in order to make a polished, risk-free, unoriginal game that is sure to sell a certain number of copies based on the success of the movie and make them a nice tidy profit.
For the three of you who haven’t seen the movie yet, the game follows the same
plot with only a few liberties taken to flesh out the gaming content. You follow
the lives of retired superheroes Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl, and their two
children, Violet and Dash.
Originally public figures, Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl are sued for the
damage caused during their heroic exploits, so they choose instead to live a
life of secret mediocrity. However, when evil fiend Syndrome rears his ugly head,
it falls on The Incredibles to return and save the world. While the game uses
cutscenes from the film to advance the identical plot, they are disjointed enough
so that much of the game’s story might actually remain a confusing mystery to
anyone who hasn’t
seen the movie.
will play as all four Incredibles over the course of the game. Mr. Incredible
has super-strength and can beat up hordes of enemies with little difficulty.
Elastigirl stretches out to perform more interesting fighting moves and often
must find distant objects to swing from in order to progress. Dash can run like
the wind; his levels play like racing game Time Trials as he darts to his goal
while dodging traffic or evil robots. Finally, Violet can turn invisible for
short periods in order to sneak past her enemies.
Add a few shooting levels and you have the best part of The
the varied gameplay. While some characters are definitely more fun to play
than others (Violet’s stealth level is particularly weak), mixing up the styles
keeps you more entertained than bored.
Still, the gameplay suffers from some
aggravating issues. Sometimes the controls feel tight and responsive, but
at other times your Incredible will stand there like an idiot for a second
or two while you hammer on the buttons. I swapped out controllers several times
before I figured out it was actually the game. You have an infinite number
of “lives” in The Incredibles, so each level is just a matter
of making it to the next checkpoint by trial and error. This can be frustrating
on a few of the levels where small missteps can kill you instantly, forcing
you to replay whole sections repeatedly.
The graphics are smooth and sharp, and capture the Pixar characters nicely. Environments
range from city rooftops to island jungles and volcano interiors, and all are
done well with plenty of objects to interact with. The occasionally uncooperative
camera can be irritating, but I’ve suffered through much worse and it’s actually
about average for a platformer. The Xbox version is rock solid and the Gamecube
version is decent enough, though the Playstation 2 version should feel a bit
embarrassed standing in front of the Pixar artists. Lacking the horsepower
to keep up, the PS2 is prone to stuttering when the action gets heavy.
The sound is also very well done with plenty of voice quips from the characters. Too bad they’re incessantly repeated as usual. The soundtrack and sound effects are absolutely top notch, though, especially on the Xbox and PS2 where you can take advantage of the full 5.1 surround sound. It’s much more satisfying when you dodge a missile and actually hear it roar by your head, pounding into the ground behind you.
Unfortunately, because it sticks so closely to the movie, The
Incredibles is a pretty short ride. An average gamer can probably beat it in about 8 hours, and without any sort of on or offline multiplayer, there’s no reason to play it again. Unlocking some extra concept art just isn’t enough of a reward anymore. The Xbox version has a bonus level you can download from Xbox Live, but that’s not much of a perk, either.
The safe road may have no risks, but also no excitement. As a standard third-person action-platformer, there’s nothing substantially wrong with THQ’s take on The
Incredibles, but neither is there anything original. Want something truly incredible? Go with the talented folks who actually made the movie and buy the DVD instead.