reviews\ Jun 15, 2003 at 8:00 pm

The Incredible Hulk - GBA - Review - GBA - Review

Marvel comic book heroes have been getting a lot of attention lately, especially on the Hollywood front that has been adapting everything from the amazing Spider-Man to the mutant super hero team of the X-Men.  Games have also been made to coincide with the release of these films and, for the most part, some have actually been very decent (think Spider-Man: The Movie) while others have been really disappointing (think Blade II).  Now joining these mighty heroes in the film and gaming world is The Incredible Hulk.  Is the Game Boy Advance powerful enough to contain this fierce creature?  Let’s find out, shall we?


It should be noted that Hulk games have been done before since the early Super Nintendo days and many of them were definitely not fitting of the not-so jolly green giant.  That is until the new Ang Lee film sparked new interest in this character followed by games released across multiple consoles by Universal Interactive.  The GBA version, though, doesn’t follow the movie in the same way X2: Wolverine’s Revenge on the same platform doesn’t follow the X2 movie.  Instead, The Incredible Hulk follows the original Marvel comic books and uses many of the characters long-time readers will recognize--like Rick Jones who is witness of the good Doctor’s transformation.


You play Doctor Bruce Banner, a technological genius working for the United States military creating weapons of mass destruction.  Among these weapons is his Gamma Bomb that on the fateful day that college boy Rick Jones decided to take a little drive into the test facilities during a countdown sent Banner out to save the dummy.  Yet unable to make it to safety, Banner took most of the brunt of the explosion.  Knowing that taking in all that gamma radiation can do strange things to a body, all his pent up anger and stress transform him into the Hulk.  After this neat little introduction, you take control of the beast as he attempts to escape the confines of the military base.


The controls are fairly easy since the Hulk relies on his brute strength and his massive strength.  He was always a brawler so expect to use your fists to pound on troops sent out to capture you.  You can also jump, which comes in handy when you want to avoid certain pitfalls or electrified floors, and also perform a jump attack.  At the start of each level, the Hulk has a barge attack that has him slamming into enemies but as he punches away at foes, his Rage abilities kick in.  When the Rage Meter goes up, the words SUPER SMASH or RAMPAGE comes up and he can do more damage (with the clap of his hands, he can knock down soldiers like bowling pins).  He can also pick things up in the environment and use them as projectiles . . . although unlike the console version, you can’t pick up and toss soldiers.


The levels are amazingly lengthy and the environments are massive.  You’re able to wander off anywhere you’d like but since you’re expected to move things along it is easy to get lost.  The Hulk mainly moves from military installations to outdoor settings as Banner’s thought clouds the Hulk’s mind enough to tell him where he should go.  Along the way there are boss fights with villains comic book fans of old will probably remember (like The Leader or The Executioner).  The game’s only huge problems are that the fist pounding can get a bit repetitive and, although you have three save game slots, you’re not able to save at any point in the game.


There is, however, a multiplayer option that lets up to four players (using a GBA cable link and, naturally, up to four GBA systems).  The object of the game is to throw objects at your opponents until you knock them out--the last Hulk standing is the winner of the game.  While this mode isn’t incredibly deep, it is fun to play anyway. 


Striking graphics and plenty of eye-catching details make up the game’s wonderful visual treatment.  Gamers will find the massive environments filled with plenty of things the Hulk can smash or use as projectile missiles.  Areas such as military installations or the desert outside the testing base could have been boring to look at but this game throws little distinctive environmental features to add spice to locations.  Cut scenes are made up of comic book-styled panels that tell the story through neatly rendered scenes.  Still the best visual feature is that the game puts as many as six or seven soldiers on the screen at once as the Hulk flexes his overgrown muscles ready to tear into them.  This is some nice stuff.


Sound-wise, The Incredible Hulk features a score that is both fitting of the action and the comic book panels that serve as cut scenes.  The only problem is, while as good as the soundtrack is, that it’s also repetitive and hardly ever changes the farther into the game you go.  Aside from this disappointment, the sound effects you’ll encounter throughout are far more plentiful.  The Hulk roars furiously when you jump and listening him to smashing his powerful fists into a wall and cracking it or the fiery explosions you caused by sending a jeep into flammable barrels is just plain sweet.  Had there been a diverse mix of tunes in this game, we would have been looking at a visual and auditory treat.


Repetitive action keeps the game from being a genuinely satisfying Hulk game on the GBA, but there are also many good things in the game’s favor that shouldn’t go overlooked.  For starters, the massive environments and the smash-everything-in-sight goodness make for some really entertaining destructive action.  The fact that there’s a multiplayer option available and that classic Hulk story will only give fans a little something extra aside from the great console game already out.


#Reviewer's Scoring Details


Gameplay: 7.0
The Hulk’s controls are simplistic in nature and why not?  He is, after all, a giant, angry brute whose fury just makes him want to smash things and those puny humans that get in his way.  The big green brawler was always about fists and he uses them often . . . although he can perform some combos that even involve his jumping swiftly rush through soldiers like a runaway freight train and use his thunderclap to knock soldiers off their feet.  He can also lift things up and send them crashing into people and things.  This does get kind of repetitive after awhile, but there’s just something too damn fun about breaking things . . . and people.


Graphics: 8.2
The game’s graphics are at the top of its game here and gamers will be pleasantly surprised how much detail the game showcases in each level.  Even the most plain-looking military compounds have a decent amount of objects such as flashing monitors or colorfully parked forklifts.  To top things off, the game can throw a large group of mobile troops so the screen is just filled with plenty of things.  The hulk himself looks pretty good out there even though he’s a little thing running around huge environments.  Overheard by my girlfriend: “Aw, he looks so cute and tiny.”


Sound: 6.5
Unfortunately the soundtrack doesn’t change from situation to situation or level to level so you’re pretty much stuck with a tune that does set the mood but becomes too repetitive to ignore.  Yet before you decide to put the volume on low, the game’s sound effects are what really shine through the score.  Aside from the Hulk’s mighty roar or the sounds of his fist breaking down concrete walls, you’ll find several bits of sound coming from the environments themselves.   Electrified floors sizzle while power generators hum.  When the Hulk sends a jeep flying into a collection of explosive barrels, the explosions sound intense.  This is not bad at all.


Difficulty: Medium
The game doesn’t really up the challenge when it comes to taking on the slew of military troopers, but the fact that they sometimes come heavily armed with rocket launchers and tanks do give the Hulk enough grief to keep you fully concentrated on the action at hand.  There are also boss fights that add an extra challenge but it’s nothing gamers will find too difficult.  Just about the only frustrating part is that while each level environment is wonderfully massive, it would have been a lot easier to offer a map or allow you to save the game at mid-point.


Concept: 7.0
The Incredible Hulk might coincide with the upcoming Ang Lee film, but the game certainly draws its inspiration from the classic Marvel comics (note that Bruce Banner looks nothing like the film’s actor in the various comic book panels throughout the game).  You’ll even go up against enemies you won’t even see in the film, but die-hard comic books fans will definitely recognize classic Hulk foes like The Leader or The Abomination. You’ll follow Banner/the Hulk through his origins while pretty much going anywhere in the environments.


Multiplayer: 7.0
One of the features that would have given console version of Hulk some extra replay value is a multiplayer feature.  In a game where you can pretty much destroy anything you happen to run into or slam your mighty fists into a group of soldiers, it would be fun to share that kind of destructive fun with a friend or two.  Luckily, the GBA version gives us some multiplayer action fit for up to four players (you have to love that GBA link cable).  It’s basically a Last-Hulk-Standing type of multiplayer game where you and your opponents take control of Hulks of different colors.  The object is to knock out the other Hulks by throwing heavy objects at them.  If this sounds like mindless fun, it is!  But you’ll certainly have plenty of fun.


Overall: 6.5
The Incredible Hulk sure knows how to have a smashing good time and the game does try hard to bring something different the farther into the game you go, but it’s not hardly enough that gamers to completely satisfy.  Yet if it’s smashing foes or through bricked walls, the Hulk is still fun enough to appeal to those gamers that love destructive behavior, brawling action and a neat multiplayer option.  If you’re a Hulk fan, this just sweetens the deal.

Above Average

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