The Incredibles: Rise of the Underminer is the followup to 2004’s game based on Disney and Pixar’s film The Incredibles. Taking place directly at the end of the film, this game features Frozone and Mister Incredible as they fight off the hordes of the Underminer in an effort to save the world. This title sports two-player cooperative play with the bonus that the game will control whatever character you are not playing if you play single player.
RotU was developed by Heavy Iron Studios, the people responsible for the first Incredibles game. With the previous title under their belts, the question is if RotU would be a strong sophomore title for Heavy Iron, or if the game would take its lead from the developer’s name, and sink to the bottom.
The Incredibles: Rise of the Underminer opens up with the last moment or two from the movie, where the Underminer comes up out of the ground, leaving the Incredible family and Frozone to battle the menace. It’s very beautiful and brings back wonderful memories of the movie. Then, unfortunately, the transition to game is made, and it’s obvious immediately just how disparate the two are.
This is not to say that the graphics in the game are bad, they just suffer immeasurably in comparison to the artwork that Pixar created in their movie. The characters simply do not look or feel like their movie counterparts. This is not to say that the graphics are particularly bad, however. For the most part, they’re quite solid, capturing the overall look and feel of the movie, if on a much lesser scale. You can still recognize the characters and there is a decent amount of detail on both the heroes and on the variety of villains that you’ll face along the way.
The backgrounds are nicely detailed as well, complete with steam rising from vents, objects in the background and some rather nice explosions and fire effects, although they rarely last more than a second. Unfortunately, it’s hard to focus on any of this because of how the game’s camera works. Situated behind the heroes, it basically sits so that you have a wide-angle view on the action. The camera never moves and what it primarily serves to do is make the game feel like it plays on rails. It’s almost as if they took a standard 2-D side-scrolling adventure and made it 3-D and let it curve this way and that.
Given that Rise of the Underminer is based on a film, one might expect to hear the same voices or at least similar ones to those heard in the movie. Unfortunately, except for heavy usage of John Ratzenberger as the Underminer, this isn’t the case. Both Samuel L. Jackson and Craig T. Nelson were not in the game reprising the roles of Mr. Incredible and Frozone respectively, and unfortunately, the voices used to replace them sound different enough from the originals that it’s quite noticible.
The voice acting itself is quite decent for what it’s worth, outside of a few of the robotic voices which are particularly hard to understand. The problem is mainly in the voice pacing. A number of times in the game, Frozone or Mr. Incredible will begin to say something and then be cut off in the middle. Other times, a situation will be discussed by the duo after you’ve already resolved it as a player.
The music and sound effects are nice and varied, and there’s really not a lot to complain about in that regard, although neither is it something that really stands out in the game.
The controls in Rise of the Underminer are pretty simplistic, given the target age of the players. The X button handles jumping while square handles attacks. Square also does a ground smash for Mister Incredible while in the air and creates Frozone’s ice glide move while in air. Triangle interacts your character with certain places in the game while a combination of the L1 and R1 buttons performs your character’s super power. The circle button does quite a bit of work, picking up and throwing objects as Mister Incredible and shooting out a freeze ray as Frozone. In the air, it works the same as the square button. The left analog stick moves the character and the right one causes the characters to dodge.
Last is the controls for coordinating the other character in single player mode. All of these are done with the directional pad. Pressing up changes between the characters, pressing down causes the other character to hang back and defend. A left press will make your ally be aggressive while a press to the right will cause them to follow you closely.
There’s nothing wrong with the controls, once it’s accepted that the game is aimed at young players and the controls are kept simple for that reason.
The object of Rise of the Underminer is quite simple. Mister Incredible and Frozone go off underground to fight the forces of the Underminer in an effort to save the world. This entails the two heroes fighting over sixteen levels against a large variety of robotic creatures as well as a number of bosses.
The AI for the enemies is pretty basic, and it’s relatively easy to time attacks to defeat them without much problem. The only real problem is when you play the game in single player mode. The game is so obviously designed for two players to play together, and the cooperative AI is lacking to say the least. If you’re fighting a monster or boss that requires you to, for instance, freeze objects flying toward you as Frozone and then pick them up and throw them as Mister Incredible, the easiest way to accomplish this is to simply switch back and forth between characters until the task is complete. Even with setting your ally on aggressive, they’re as likely to hang back and do nothing as they are to attack, which can make the game pretty frustrating.
One addition to the game is the ability to upgrade the characters through gaining XP. You can increase the character’s health and strength and even how many super powers attacks they can store at one time. It’s a nice addition, but not enough to make up for the game’s other shortcomings.
The gameplay itself is pretty basic, even for a game aimed at ten to twelve year old children. The puzzles in the game rarely require you to press more than one button, and never more than one at a time. The enemies are fairly easy to defeat and the levels themselves are quite short. Even at sixteen levels in length, the game is easily completed within ten hours.
While Rise of the Underminer does offer a number of things to unlock, none of them are really worth spending time playing the game unless you’re quite young. The game simply isn’t challenging enough or engaging enough to spend the amount of time hunting for secrets within the game. Not only that, but making the game rely on its cooperative play means that anyone wanting to play single player is left out in the cold, which drives down the value on this title as well.