The Incredible Hulk Review

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Publisher: Universal Interactive
Developer: Pocket Studios

Platform: Game Boy Advance
Reviewed on Game Boy Advance

Dr. Bruce Banner has been transformed by the radiation from an experimental gamma bomb into a man who is transformed by anger into the personification of rage – the Incredible Hulk. The Hulk wants peace and solitude, but is constantly drawn into conflict with those who would capture or destroy him.

Kyle Ackerman

Unlike the other Hulk console games, The Incredible Hulk for the Game Boy Advance follows the tribulations of the Hulk in a style more in keeping with the comics than with the recent film. The Hulk is tormented by a series of masters such as General Ross, Tyrannus or The Executioner, and their minions. The Hulk craves solitude, and, guided by the remnants of his alter-ego Dr. Bruce Banner, the Hulk carves his way through enemy forces. Dr. Banner only manifests as a voice of reason, communicating objectives to the Hulk, whose finest talent is destruction.

The game is nearly all combat, and in combat, the Hulk punches things. He punches a lot. Pressing the A button cycles through a series of punches, and is the staple attack against run-of-the-mill foes and destructible objects. The Hulk can jump, and has an attack that can be used while jumping, but it's really hard to time correctly. He can even pick up objects and hurl them in the same eight directions in which the Hulk can move. Beyond these basic moves, the Hulk can channel his rage into more impressive attacks. A rage meter in the lower left corner of the screen pulses as the Hulk causes destruction or is injured by attacks. This rage can always be used to barge through enemies (a mildly damaging attack as the Hulk rushes through the throng). There are also three levels of rage attacks that must be unlocked on every level. The first is a two-handed thunderclap that pushes enemies away from the Hulk. The second is an overhead smash that does more damage to nearby foes, and the final is a jump smash that devastates the area around the Hulk.

To use the three unlockable rage attacks, the Hulk needs to perpetrate a "SuperSmash!" or "Rampage!" which can be done by knocking out multiple foes simultaneously. Doing so gains the Hulk stars which ultimately unlock the more powerful attacks, indicated by fist icons in the lower right corner of the screen. This means that early parts of the level are often spent trying to smash puny foes so as to unlock the rage attacks. Of course, significant portions of the rage meter are consumed in these attacks, so the Hulk also spends a lot of time smashing objects in the landscape like pottery, cacti or lab equipment, to fill his rage meter.

Much of the game is spent repeating the same, simple punch attack against countless weak foes while navigating mazes in the isometric landscape. Mazes can be underground caverns, ancient-looking cities, labs or desert canyons, but there is a sameness to them. Aside from countless foes, the levels are typical find-the-switch (or destroy-the-switch) then find-the-exit. The weak hordes are occasionally aided by more powerful foes such as robots or tanks, punctuated by the rare boss battle. Regardless, your choice as the Hulk is to keep punching until enemies fall, or busy yourself charging up the rage meter by smashing houses and trees until you can use a more impressive attack.

From the above description, it might sound like the Hulk has a lot of combat moves, but in reality he mostly punches, and it becomes monotonous. Throwing objects, from jeeps to boulders, is a bit more fun, but it's a bit difficult to control the Hulk, especially when you have to orient him to an object that he can lift. You can smash all sorts of objects, sometimes to fill the rage meter, other times to get health powerups in the form of vegetables, pizza, donuts and other foodstuffs. Between objects to smash and enemies, the game plays like the instructions on a shampoo bottle: Hulk smash... Then repeat.

The cut scenes have a pleasant, comic book feel, but the levels vary in appearance. Most enemies are small, so not particularly detailed, in order to give the Hulk a broader battlefield. Areas like Tyrannus's city are interesting and varied, but the Hulk's trek through the desert is in all difficult-to-discern browns. Some areas in the desert require jumping on platforms, which can be difficult to find because they blend into the cliffs so well. All of this is accompanied by a soundtrack that falls short even when compared to other Game Boy Advance games. The music is a short, repeated loop that drives big, buzzing chords into your brain should you wear headphones without deactivating the music.

Regrettably, The Incredible Hulk could have been a much better game. The Hulk simply needs a lot more variety in his combat moves, so that the player could get excited to pull off interesting combinations, or feel better equipped for boss battles. By expanding the number combat moves and redoing the abbreviated soundtrack, the game would be a lot more exciting. As it stands, there are better options for the owner of a GBA.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on July 3, 2003 11:08 PM.

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