The GameBoy Advance take on The Incredibles—Disney/Pixar’s tour de force animated film—not only fails to make good on the allure of the franchise by capturing the look and feel of the movie, but it mostly fails at simply being an action beat-em-up worth spending any substantial amount of time on. About the only things this cart does well is tell the movie’s story through quaint between-level ‘cinemas’ and kill time for you if you’re incredibly (ha) bored.
The fact that the game doesn’t look like the film is more a result of inherent hardware limitations than anything else; the GBA is hardly known for its ability to push polygons around. However, we know that looks alone don’t translate into a good cartoon flick-turned-videogame, and we needn’t look much further than the PS2 incarnation of the same game. Slickly rendered though that title was, it was equal parts disjointed and boring.
Here, Bob Parr—a.k.a. Mr. Incredible—and family have to make do with hand drawn realizations, not 3D computer renderings, and horizontal scrolling, rather than third person roaming. The result conjures images of what an old school Final Fight or Double Dragon game would look like if the characters were replaced with wacky superheroes and a decidedly juvenile presentation. But you’ve just said that all of this is the fault of the GBA! you yell imploringly, coming to the game’s aid. Quite true, but that doesn’t mean we have to like it.
And so Mr. Incredible brawls, Mrs. Incredible uses her stretchy limbs to disarm gun-toting bad guys and climb platforms. Dash, their boy wonder, sprints through real life obstacle courses after a fashion, in levels that don’t quite work because his fast movement blurs the screen and the obstacles are lame (the same car wreck over and over, etc). The Incredible daughter, Violet, must use her force field to protect innocents from falling debris when it’s her turn, or else use her invisibility powers to slip through a forest level fraught with enemies. In either case, the result isn’t as good as it sounds. Finally, you also get to play as Frozone, an opportunity not afforded you in the console version. That being said, they shouldn’t have bothered, as his levels play out like Dash’s, only in slow motion—utterly unexciting stuff.
To give you an unattractive but accurate snapshot, the game plays thusly: button bash your way through two or three uniformed palette swapping bad guys and two or three mechanical pests—level after level after level—as the Incredible parents. The only interruption in these tedious proceedings will be interspersed Dash, Frozone and Violet stages, which come across as badly realized bonus rounds. The irony is, it’s these ‘variety stages’ that actually provide the only challenge the game has to offer. Of course, the challenge comes of cheapness and not clever game design, by way of unseen obstacles in Dash’s blur-ruined missions, or a hail of unavoidable flying crap in Frozone’s areas.
At least there was some effort put into the sights and sounds that furnish The Incredibles. But! Although both categories come off as above average, the environs and tunes also repeat themselves quite a bit more than seems acceptable. This fault is certainly exacerbated by the game’s unusual length; there are over 30 levels to tangle with, presented in the most inane of level numbering formats. When you see stages like “1-3-2” and “4-1-1”, you too will wonder why the hell they couldn’t have just been numbered stages 1 through 30+. Clearing a level won’t prompt a save feature either, because this game uses passwords. It’s not a major problem, but I’m spoiled after Kim Possible 2.
Further spoiling the mix, The Incredibles is easy like Sunday morning. I breezed through the thing in a few subway rides to and from work, losing only a life or two in the process, playing at a time when I am at my most bleary eyed and cack-handed. The old argument that the game was designed for kids doesn’t sit well with me either: if kids welcome the ease of play, they won’t welcome a truckload of repetitive levels and graphics not representative of the movie they love so much.
Truly, this is one of those games that make me wonder why they even bothered. The GBA can’t make a game that looks anything like the sensational film, and clearly using a Double Dragon engine from the 8-bit era, and giving us lots and lots of uninspired action against swarms of clones in recycled backgrounds isn’t the solution to the hardware’s glass ceiling. This effort isn’t worthy of the license. So why? Because people will buy it anyway. Don’t you be one of these people.
Four out of ten