Flex Some Big Green Muscle
Bruce Banner takes the term “going green” to a whole new extreme, literally. Like other recent games tied to the blockbuster release of movie adaptations of old-school superhero comics, the multi-platform Incredible Hulk spinoff titles don’t necessarily represent the cream of the crop in gaming innovation, but they’re a guilty pleasure for comic fans who marvel over the opportunity to wreak some dimwitted destruction. After all, the big green guy’s motto isn’t “Hulk plant flowers” or “Hulk snuggle kittens.”
It’s to be expected the DS version of Incredible Hulk will lack much of the luster of its console counterparts, yet the game looks and plays quite well as a side-scrolling platformer. In some ways, certain gamers – not just the young ones – might even find it preferable over a few of the console versions. The biggest downfall of Incredible Hulk on Nintendo’s handheld is its repetitive nature, but this is balanced somewhat by the catharsis gained by the freedom to literally crush, break, and destroy practically everything in sight. Even when the gameplay gets tiresome, it’s tempting to pick it up again for a few more levels of pummeling and obliterating. Who doesn’t love a good smash-fest?
As Hulk, you’ll progress through a series of mostly linear areas populated with all manner of meddlesome human obstacles ranging from tanks and jets to enemy soldiers armed with guns, mortars, flame throwers, lasers, kamikaze bombs, rocket launchers, and more. The goal is to thunder your way through to the end of the level, leaving a swath of destruction in your wake. There are bonuses for taking out all the bad guys, smashing everything that can be smashed, and picking up hidden collectible skins. An occasional boss fight or underwater level is thrown in to temporarily break up the monotony, but the gameplay varies little from level-to-level. By the half-way point, all the smash-and-grab becomes old hat.
The Hulk has a number of maneuvers at his disposal for dispatching scenery and foes alike, though most involve using his fists. You can punch, slam your fists downward to the ground, deliver uppercuts, and do aerial stomp moves that cause substantial damage to anything in Hulk’s way. A rage surge can be engaged at will for increased speed, jumping ability, and pummeling power. Additionally, every blow you land will slowly build a meter in the upper-right of the screen. Once filled, a tap of the X button will unleash a powerful gamma boost that surrounds Hulk with a pulsating field that destroys all breakable objects and enemies it comes into contact with. The gamma boost lets you speed-plow through large portions of a stage with devastating effects. In chain-like fashion, everything you destroy while in this mode continues to build the meter and prolong the awesome power.
One thing the game pulls off expertly is letting the player feel the power of the Hulk through his movements and combat. Every footstep generates an ominously booming crunch, which adds greatly to making the little half inch-tall growling green thing on the screen seem like a hefty bulldozer of might. A hard landing will shatter the concrete beneath your feet, and almost every element of foreground scenery can be impacted when any portion of the brute come into contact with it. Solid structural elements retain visual damage when struck, while other sections of buildings can be smashed through to open up new pathways to progress. At times, this aspect of the gameplay almost has a Rampage-like feeling to it, as you bash out squares from the interior of structures to get to the roof or pass through them.
Hulk’s interactions with his adversaries have a similar effect. Punching enemy soldiers will send them flying backwards across the screen and through breakable objects, which is extremely satisfying. Giant boulders, wrecked tanks, and other object lying around can also be picked up and hurled. All movement and attacks are executed with the D-pad and face buttons, and touch controls have almost been left out completely. The touch screen displays a constant level map, though it’s used more for tracking the location of baddies than actual navigation. Tapping the screen or triggering the L button will activate a neat scouting feature that will pause the action and let you scroll around the entire level ahead of time to see the location of enemies and items. It’s a good tool for the later levels, as the difficulty increases steadily.
For a movie tie-in, the story progression in the DS version of Incredible Hulk is poorly implemented. Having not seen the film, it’s hard to tell exactly what the hell is going on in terms of plot here. In the short intro sequence, Banner is walking in the snow. He simply states: “My name is Bruce Banner…I’m trying to stop a monster.” Cue the Hulk, and the first level begins. A few other lengthier scenes appear later in the game, but they do little to explain anything beyond the fact a bunch of government military-types want to get their hands on the Hulky. There’s a disconnection between the story and what’s happening in the gameplay. However, the green guy’s reputation and tale precedes him, and anyone even remotely familiar with the Hulk or who’s managed to catch a glimpse of a commercial for the film will get the gist. The exact particulars are unnecessary; he’s the Hulk, and he smashes things. You get to be the Hulk, and you’ll smash things. End of story.
Cutscene animations are very detailed, even for a DS title, and other areas of the game are also visually appealing. Sure, there are plenty of the same old buildings to gut and baddies to punish, but the level design and scenery changes frequently. This lessens some of the repetitious feeling that sets in after extended play. Though they’re rather tiny on-screen, the enemy soldiers and units have a cool cel-shaded look, which is a stylish touch.
When it comes to the brute mashing of many things, The Incredible Hulk proves to be a great source for stress relief. As a movie-based game, it suffers from an unclear storyline that requires you to have seen the film to get the whole picture – perhaps this is intentional. The game is good for some mindless fun in short bursts; just don’t get too smashed.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.7 Graphics
Great cutscenes, character designs, and scenery. 4.0 Control
The basic button controls are solid and responsive, though not particularly innovative. 3.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Cinematic music sets the mood nicely and sound effects are impressive. Voice-over work in cutscenes is notable. 3.3
Smashing stuff is great, but the gameplay gets repetitive fast.
3.5 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.