Once two of the world’s greatest superheroes, Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl have spent the last fifteen years facing their most difficult challenge- domestic life. Bored with his mundane life as an insurance claims adjuster, Bob Parr (Mr. Incredible) leaps at the chance for adventure when he receives a top-secret assignment from a mysterious organization, inevitably bringing his super-powered family back into the lives they were born to lead.
Out of all of the Pixar films to date, The Incredibles seems like the most appropriate fit for a video game. Who wouldn’t want to play a game about a family of superheroes fighting bad guys and robotic adversaries in exotic locales? One would think that with such great characters, excellent art direction, and wry sense of humor that it would be hard to not make a good game. Unfortunately, THQ once again takes an excellent Pixar movie and turns it into a horribly mediocre game.It’s hard to go wrong in this category, the characters and overall style of the game pretty much set by the film. Still, the characters do look great, and animations are consistent with their personalities. Being able to pull your cut-scenes directly from the film doesn’t hurt, either. Heavy Iron Studios did an exceptional job of fleshing out the world of The Incredibles, adhering strongly to the look and feel of the movie. The soundtrack, of course, is culled from the source material, but the only voice-over talent that survives the translation is Samuel L. Jackson, who plays the character Frozone, Mr. Incredible’s best friend. Voice actors that approximate the voices of the originals, mostly to good effect, play the rest (cut-scenes that are lifted from the film, however, feature the original actors). It appears that they got their money’s worth out of Jackson, as he pulls double duty as the narrator as well. This is where things start to falter; Over the course of the game you get to play as each member of the family, each with a fairly unique set of controls. Mr. Incredible just feels sluggish at times, with horrible response time after each move, leaving you open for repeated attacks. Sometimes it’s hard to tell if you are facing the right direction, and once that punch is thrown you go into a protracted punch animation that sends you lurching forward with no control until its finished. In fact, most of the characters feel like they are wading through molasses, Dash being the one exception. Dash actually leans toward the opposite end of the spectrum- his controls are too sensitive and twitchy.
The Incredibles pretty much follows the storyline of the film, adhering the standard formula of drawing out specific scenes with additional henchmen encounters or platform puzzles. While the movie clip cut-scenes are certainly a joy to watch, they don’t really do that much to propel the game’s story along, and have often have little significance to the levels they are paired with.
Basically, each player has a set of super powers that are relegated by a power meter. Various health and power recharge icons are scattered throughout the levels, with an occasional secret item icon to grab (these unlock bonus content, like game production art, stills from the movie, etc. yawn.) Combat looks great, but ultimately is just lame, mostly because the enemy AI is about on the same level as an earthworm. Of course, the favorite solution for this is simply to multiply the number of enemies to battle, basically making a boring fight even longer.
The main problem with the gameplay is that it’s REALLY repetitive. Some levels are just too drawn out with redundant waves of henchmen and gadgets, while others are just so poorly designed you have to repeat them over and over again until you finally luck/twitch your way through them. One level has you playing Dash trying to beat his school bus to school- pretty fun until the first couple of attempts, but certain points on the level had me screaming at the monitor after several unsuccessful tries to get that one precision dodge or jump needed to advance. Actually, just about every level with every character has one or more such moments. It’s very jarring as the rest of the gameplay is rather simplistic, there’s no middle ground. Violet’s missions are the worst; basically stealth missions, things get extremely tedious as your invisibility power lasts for an extremely limited amount of time, reducing the level to little more than ‘sneak, wait for recharge, wash, rinse, repeat.’ Things do get a little more interesting when Dash and Violet join forces with their rolling force field ball maneuver, but most people will probably lose interest with the game by then.Considering going through the game the first time is something of a chore, I doubt many people will play it through a second time, much less even complete it the first. Sure, there’s all of those ‘bonus items’ to unlock, but why would you want to be reminded of the brilliance of the film in the context of a horrible game? Also, in the ‘why bother?’ category is downloadable content via Live, with a combat arena level available since launch. If combat were actually fun, this would be a notable addition, but otherwise it just comes off as a gratuitous inclusion of Xbox Live capability.