DS Review: The Incredibles - Rise of the Underminer

In what could be a first in the video game industry, a game has been released that takes less time to play all the way through than it would to watch the movie it's based off of. For The Incredibles debut on the DS, developer Helixe has taken this soon-to-be film franchise and slapped it into an awful 2-D platformer. At the very least the pain is short thanks to the length, hovering dangerously close to the under two hour mark.

Alternating control between two characters (Frozone and Mr. Incredible), players plow through levels in record time. As is expected with the dual character set up, each has their specific powers that need to be put to use extensively to advance. With level design as it is, it's a miracle the game is actually playable.

Annoyances fill this video game sequel to the Pixar film. For instance, only Mr. Incredible can flip a switch to open a door. Apparently, Frozone was absent the day they went through that in super hero school. While switching between the two is painless, it's bafflingly stupid why they needed Frozone to be in the game at all aside from solving generic, blatantly obvious puzzles.

There is no room for exploration, as the solutions to open up a myriad of closed doors will lead you into every power up or bonus. The puzzles (if you can call them that) are almost always the same: Frozone freezes a platform, Mr. Incredible jumps on it to flip a switch, and the door to the next section opens. You'll never get stuck or find yourself in a situation you can't get out of.

The only real challenge comes from the off-screen enemies, or the ones that can shoot straight through the walls. Multiple spots in Underminer place enemies which are unreachable until you find a switch. Unfortunately, they're usually defending that too. It's an aggravating struggle to defensively jump around, avoiding fire, and hopefully make it up to a switch. These represent the few death spots in the game.

There's a pattern at work here too. After clearing that meager test of jumping dexterity, you'll walk until the game stops you. A few robots attack, you finish the next puzzle, the screen stops, you fight, ad nauseam. It's unbearably boring and predictable.

Levels are completely unvaried, with repeating textures, backdrops, and some portions are simply cut and pasted to artificially extend the length. Combat with Frozone is useless aside from freezing enemies, and even then, it's far easier to smash them with Mr. Incredible. This makes the brawling against wide roster of five different types of robots dull and repetitive. There are never any new moves to learn, though you can attempt to control everything with highly inaccurate touch screen controls. There was no point even bothering to program these in since the moves are so complicated, it's nearly impossible to pull them off with any sort of consistency.

Stupider yet, Mr. Incredible's combos don't qualify as combos. Robots have their own dirty tricks, like pulling of their own attacks regardless of the player wailing away on them. It defeats the point of combos in the first place, especially since the smooth animation needs to cycle completely before you can dodge anything. Admittedly, letting players strike at their will would have destroyed any challenge, but even on the highest difficulty, there's not much of one in the first place.

Multi-player fans will need two copies, and that alone will leave this mode unplayed for most. It's not a major loss since it's the same single player game. Now, instead of swapping, you play at the same time.

Rise of the Underminer doesn't do anything right, and even fails to fully capitalize on the license. The text-based cinematics, cel-shaded graphics, complete lack of voice work, and the absence of the entire Incredibles family is another reason to stick this with numerous other licensed DS titles. This is a total cash-in, and a nasty one at that.

(* out of *****)

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