Version tested: PlayStation 2
The chances are you've seen The Incredibles. Even if you haven't, the cloying hype surrounding the Pixar animation has been unavoidable this Christmas, so there's no point in telling you of a plot involving a superhero family and the regaining of its powers. You know this already. It's everywhere. Incredible.
The power of Pixar
While some vault the movie into the stratosphere, it's arguably too much. Too long, too polished, too good. The game, incredibly enough, is a faithful representation of the film plot, with the four members of the family rediscovering their respective powers and using them for good, good, good. Cerebral it isn't.
The feel of the film makes it to the Planet Interactive intact. Developer Heavy Iron would have had to go a long way to screw up the general ambience, given the ridiculously professional standard of the source material, so there's no great surprise there. The Incredibles as a concept is funny, surprising and endearingly entertaining: the game was always going to work on this level.
Each of the family's characters gets its own levels, which take the form of linear platforming (shock), and each exhibits its specific superpowers. Mr Incredible lifts things with his super strength, Mrs Incredible stretches like an elastic gymnast (this is supposed to be a children's game, for God's sake), and siblings Dash and Violet speed and sneak, respectively. Enemies and obstacles in the levels are tailored to the various characters' needs. Playing The Incredibles feels pretty much like colouring in by numbers.
And there we have the incredible problem. Once you get over the initial fireworks, which really are suitably impressive, The Incredibles settles into a round of, "Oh, it's a Mr Incredible stage. I'm going to be lifting things now." Control issues also blight play, with irritations over directional changes and the deliverance of superpowers quickly leading to a resigned frustration. Considering this is where the game was always going to stand or fall, it's an annoying, if not wholly unexpected, disappointment. There's also a badly implemented lock-on feature, which drops itself for some unexplained reason after you pick weapons up. It could have been better.
Also, the boss battles present a surprisingly difficult challenge, so children are likely to struggle in the harder moments. It all looks and sounds fantastic, but there's the inescapable image of little Jimmy hurling the pad at the screen through a veil of tears because Dash can't stop in the racing levels, or Violet simply runs out of Incredible Power juice (this is represented as a meter) and can't sneak her way to the end of the level. Again.
It's a shame. Children's games can be done better than this. Shark Tale was enjoyable and far better designed from a control perspective, possibly because there was only one central character, although that too boiled down to repeating a set of ideas in rotation until a fairly short completion.
The Incredibles is strictly for kids, and again solely for those that go nuts for the movie. The thrill of taking control of the family in action is soon soured by some nasty control and camera glitches, but youngsters who can't get enough of seeing Mrs Incredible stretch herself around won't really care about the finer points of directional play. Why would they? They'll be full of turkey and squabbling over the controller. If that's all you're after from The Incredibles, go ahead and buy.
If you want more, really don't. Apart from some competent use of blinding source material, The Incredibles weighs in as a real shame.
4 / 10