reviews\ Jan 26, 2003 at 7:00 pm

The Invincible Iron Man - GBA - Review

I have collected comics for over 25 years. One of my favorites has been The Invincible Iron Man. Iron Man is Tony Stark-- a wealthy industrialist whom, using the (not iron) suit he created, battles crime in his spare time. I was delighted to learn that Activision was bringing this hero to life for a popular platform such as the Game Boy Advance. Though I had hoped for something larger like Xbox, or even PSX, I'll take what I can get. The last time I saw Iron Man on a system was for my Dreamcast in Marvel vs. Capcom 2. Now, the other "Man of Steel" (ok, an alloy) has his own title in 2003. 

Sadly, I am not very thrilled with the offering. The Invincible Iron Man is a decent game, but plays too much like better games of the same style. It is not much more than Mega Man in a red and yellow suit. It is not terrible, but lacking in anything special. Considering the character is 40 years old, you'd think they'd have some better idea of what to do with him. They've had a couple of decades to think of something

As mentioned, it plays like many other titles. It's a side-action adventure with Iron Man jogging along shooting baddies and disabling whatever is trying to stop him along the way. The idea is that Tony Stark has had an Iron Man suit stolen, and must recover it before damage is done. Firstly, that bugs a comic purist like me, as this just doesn't happen! Ok, I am being picky. You must traverse the dangers of enemies wielding large blasting weapons, while dodging laser-firing turrets and hopefully battle his arch-enemies (bosses) Blizzard and Crimson Dynamo. You begin in a boring "dock" area that goes on and on with annoyingly repeating backgrounds and buildings (think: old Hanna-Barbera cartoons).... and also get to experience woods, snow and an ugly industrial area (finally). It is not easy, either. Most backgrounds make it a mess to get around, and it's challenging enough without environmental distractions to hinder your progress.

As you go along, you collect extra lives, power-ups and health points. Iron Man's weapon is his "repulsor beam" which is built into his gloves. He also has an annoying and useless ability to run very fast and charge-down an opponent. I didn't find this useful except when running past turrets as needed. Otherwise, it makes his reckless and a hazard to himself. As you blast your way along, your shooting power becomes weaker. You must allow your suit to recharge or your firepower becomes dangerously impaired. This is easy enough to do, however. Just find a spot with no "action" and wait. Your meter will increase and you're back in business. Getting health power ups is a lot more challenging. They stick those in places that will kill you before you can reach them. Did I mention this is not an easy game?

It is hard. I think perhaps too hard. The enemies come at you fast and furious if you move along at a decent pace. If not, you have to creep along and risk being hit by an off-screen blast. A no-win situation either way. The bosses didn't seem as bad, as you do not have as many distractions. I found it annoying that the turrets were able to shoot fast and sometimes through things to get to you. They are also in awkward places for you to destroy them. He can leap high, but within some environments, that is not possible. You're (too often) a sitting Iron Duck. 

The graphics were not too bad, but I did not like the environments. Good colors and images, but they were crammed together and made the experience confusing and troublesome. The sounds were clear, but his grunt when he jumps was kind of silly. Attention Activision: Tony's suit it powered and FLIES in the comics. Why would he grunt when he jumps? Even his first, cumbersome yellow suit got him around without grunting! For goodness sakes-- he sounds like a Klingon with a migraine! The music and effects sounds were OK for GBA, but I have heard better. 

For his debut on GBA, Iron Man is a bit heavy on the side of mediocre. There are some fun challenges here and there (the bosses, for example), but it is too messy and ugly in between. Die-hard fans like me will have to try it out, but casual gamers will be better served looking elsewhere for hero-adventures. This one is easy to pass by. 

Reviewer's Scoring Details

Gameplay: 6
The game plays like a lot of others in the same genre, but without the flair to separate it in any way. The controls are easy enough to master, as there is only shoot, jump, run and power-up-shoot. Leaping from platform to platform while dodging (unfair?) gun turrets and off-screen bad guys gets a bit irritating. It took a lot of restarts to get anywhere. Finally, I had to settle for creeping along slowly and being aggravated by the pace. But, I wanted to get somewhere in the game. 

Graphics: 6 
Decent looking, but too cluttered, too often. It gets messy and too difficult to navigate. I don't shun a challenge, but when the buildings get in the way, that is rough. More work than it is worth.  

Sound: 6.5
The battle sounds were pretty good, and the music was average. I did not care for his grunting sound every time you make a little leap. His repulsor sounded good, as did the enemies' weapons.    

Difficulty: Hard
The game is more difficult than it should be. Fighting bad guys is OK, but battling the ugly environments is terrible. Jumping is clumsy and aiming at some enemies while jumping is a pain in the.... thumb. 

Concept: 4.5 
There are a lot of ways this could have been special, but none of them were explored. It starts with a walk-and-blast situation, and ends that way. Tony/Iron Man is not a dumb hero. He could have had to discover things and work out problems-- before, during and after his battles. Why go with the mindless shoot 'em up?   

Overall: 5.5
Not terrible, but not terribly good. If you haven't had enough of the run and shoot side-scrolling games, give this a try. If you don't like games that work against your skills with poor design, avoid this one. It will drive you crazy. It's sad to say, as I am such a fan, but honesty must prevail. Maybe a sequel will be created, and they will make something that utilizes Iron Man's real skills and without the annoyances.  


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