With the number of superhero movies flooding the cinemas this year, gamers can expect a similar situation in respect to superhero videogames. The Nintendo DS version of The Incredible Hulk bypasses the open-world gameplay of the console versions, instead shaping itself as a side-scrolling action/adventure title, though how well this style of game suits the big, green machine remains to be seen.
Like a gentle giant, the contents of The Incredible Hulk are largely simplistic. From a mediocre story introduction which offers no insight whatsoever on the character of the Hulk, the brief cut scene quickly whisks players off into the first level of the cold, snow-covered environment of Alaska. Why are you here? No-one really knows.
Whether you are fighting baddies in Alaska, the warmer climate of Brazil, or the urban sprawl of the United States, the game navigates you though thirty levels of Contra inspired gameplay. Though ultimately this game can't stack up to the fun of Contra.
The game's levels start off as simplistic maps where players can only travel in one direction. The aim of the game is to guide the Hulk through to the end of the map in order to reach his goal. As you progress throughout the game, the maps begin to open up and force you to loop around in a big circle to uncover new paths to get the Hulk to his objective. Thankfully, the bottom screen of the DS serves as a map, thus making it easier to find your way if you happen to trek off the beaten path.
Of course, this is no girl scout hike in the woods, and the Hulk will find that he has many gun toting enemies trying to block his path. These little guys prove to be quite a pain at times as they have a knack for carrying a variety of weapons and a penchant for firing off continuous bursts of rounds at the Hulk.
The Hulk comes equipped with a number of moves to 'HULK SMASH!' his enemies, most of which are melee attacks that are performed with the Hulk's fists. The Hulk has a basic punch at his disposal, as well as a special punch which can be performed when you are either above or below an enemy. The Hulk can also come across 'vaults' which are large poles which the Hulk can use to fling himself from in order to build up momentum to barrel into his enemies. In a wickedly old-school move, the Hulk also has the ability to go Super Mario on his foes with the ability to simply jump on opponents to squash them.
As well as the general melee attack options, the Hulk also has a Gamma Gauge. Once full, this gauge can be activated with a simple button press, which gives the Hulk a short time of invincibility where he can run into the path of enemies or objects that block his path and instantly wipe them out.
As well as contending with a population of bad guys throughout the level, certain sections of the game will add in a Boss battle for the Hulk to contend with before he reaches his objective. It is in these battles that you'll find yourself beating up on the Abominable Snowman (seriously!) or a robotic fish, or some other equally absurd boss - which will leave you scratching your head wondering about its inclusion. To top it off, these boss levels follow a particular pattern, which once figured out will allow you to gain the upper hand quite quickly... and cheaply.
Presentation wise, The Incredible Hulk is not the prettiest game on the DS, but the simple pleasure of wailing on the destructible environments somewhat makes up for it. The downside of which is the vicious game slowdown that often plagues the title.
If you can stick it through to the end, there actually is some replay value in the title, though it is superficial at best. Players are able to collect tokens which are spread throughout the levels of The Incredible Hulk in order to unlock character skins which allow players to change the appearance of the Hulk. Those familiar with the Grey Hulk, Smart Hulk, etc. will enjoy the inclusion of other characters from the Hulk universe, but the unlockable characters would have been a better inclusion if they had some meaning attached to them. It would have been a nice addition to the title if the Hulk's abilities were dependant on which skin was selected allowing players to mix up the gameplay.
The Incredible Hulk also offers a bare bones multiplayer mode which requires each player to have their own copy of the game. Essentially, this game mode revolves around players trashing the level to see who causes the most damage. Smashing. While not the most involving of game modes, it does offer a short diversion from the monotony of the single-player aspects of the title.
Overall, The Incredible Hulk provides some simple fun for the first few levels before descending into a spiral of similar looking environments and gameplay, causing all the fun to be sucked out of the game. At the end of the day, this title is probably more suited to younger players with a penchant for destroying things.