The Incredibles

Gamestyle Archive Intro: we were big fans of Pixar so looked forward to any video game tie-in but unfortunately the Incredibles from November 2004 just wasn’t up to scratch.

incredibles

The link-up between THQ, Disney and Pixar Studios has been extremely lucrative and it’s led to family-friendly releases such as Finding Nemo and Monsters, Inc. Each title has gone on to sell exceptionally well on the back of each successful motion picture – so it’s no surprise that history may be repeating with The Incredibles. However, could this be a swansong given the publicised falling-out between Pixar and Disney? And will the final show be its most memorable?

Go see the film, buy the novelty items and pick up the videogame to keep your kids entertained at the weekends. It’s a surefire winner for every parent, and a winning strategy that Gamestyle could adopt in the coming years. Unfortunately, the majority of licensed releases have suffered simply because of the cost-bidding (for the license) and a highly-contracted development period. This said, things have been improving steadily as Hollywood has awoken to the commercial ‘realities’ of poorly-conceived (and cobbled together) videogame properties. Monsters, Inc: Scream Arena may have performed well, but it was shallow, short and very repetitive. The Incredibles has been produced with input from Pixar Studios – so the central characters are all faithfully-represented, as is the overall flavour and stylistic bent of the film.

Without question, the ‘licensed’ game is spot on, and the cut-sequences are flawlessly directed and equally memorable (particularly with regards to voice direction – something of a rarity in all but a few videogames). Things begin to go pear-shaped when it comes to the actual gameplay. Gamestyle will return to this point later, but for those unfamiliar with the cinema version you should be forewarned that the game follows onscreen events precisely. In some ways this can be a little shortsighted – given the talent at Pixar, one would have hoped the official game could’ve provided an expansion pack at least. Instead, the kids will be one step shy of the action (and one step removed from the magic).

In a nutshell, The Incredibles is set around a family who each have unique superhero abilities. Whilst trying to live a normal suburban existence, and avoiding the media scrutiny which previously grew out of hand, there is alas no ‘escaping’ the unwritten superhero rule – which states: there is no such thing as retirement or normality. So, when a new threat to the world materialises, the family must dust off those costumes and make a return. Set across eighteen levels, you will alternately take control of family members; there is no freedom to choose either mom, dad, sis or bro, as each level is specifically tailored for special abilities. Likewise, any opportunity for free-roaming adventure (a la Spider-Man 2) is absent, as this essentially is a linear and rudimentary platform experience – a shame, given the licence and bountiful possibilities it presents. Instead, these have been frittered away to corresponding pieces which all conveniently fit into a gameplaying ‘groove’.

Adding to the despair is the reliance on a constant stream of enemies, regardless of which family member you’re playing as. While the father is equipped for close-quarters combat, the rest of the family could have benefitted from far greater variety or a little ‘escapism’ of their own. The mother, with her elastic ability, is restricted to picking off enemies from a distance and to swinging over obstacles. In a city of skyscrapers, more could have been done to incorporate the environment – as each character is essentially playing to type (read: caricatures), there is no escaping the droll repetition in their levels. This feeling is further enhanced by ropey controls, the lack of believable collision, and a difficulty curve shaped like a rollercoaster. The camera, too, is a major hindrance as it fails to respond to changes in direction. You can control it yourself, but dabbling with the right stick while in the middle of a streetfight isn’t the ideal solution.

If nothing else, The Incredibles certainly ‘looks’ reasonable enough to play (and matches the animated yardstick of the film) – but it certainly won’t pip Ratchet & Clank for playability or for novel interpretation. However visually, it’s a close-run thing. So, the videogame of the albeit excellent film is anything but incredible. For unsuspecting parents, it will entertain the wee ones for a few hours – but given how fast they grow up these days, you certainly can’t afford to play down to wizened expectations. There are far better games out there (without a licence attached) that will yield far broader smiles.

Gamestyle Score: 4/10

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