I wish there was a much stronger word than ?mediocre? to describe what I experienced. The best I could come up with is ?meh?. Keeping up the long tradition of average to awful movies-to-games, The Incredibles: Rise of the Underminer is a decent, if half-hearted, action title that does nothing terribly wrong, but does nothing spectacular either. Like the many tie-ins to animated features that came before, the game is obviously geared more for a younger audience. It does little to appeal to the broad range of fans of the original film despite interesting and funny dialogue, Pixar-style graphics and the use of an RPG-like upgrade system.
The title takes up the plot from the end of the movie where the Incredible family finds itself confronted by a hammy super-villain called the Underminer issuing the usual threats: world domination, destruction, etc. So, Mr. Incredible tells his super-powered family to run off for some reason, and Frozone (his partner) conveniently appears out of nowhere to lend a hand against the little guy with the big drill (compensation possibly?). The opening scene launches you on a quest to defeat the Mole-Man wannabe and his army of endless robots. The story ends up taking you deep under the earth, through a frozen landscape, and into an underwater lab as you battle robots, break doomsday weapons, battle robots, destroy machinery, battle robots, save scientists, and battle more robots. Notice a pattern?
Things seem interesting at the beginning, what with the clown-car full of robots and the typical super-hero storyline of saving mankind from the ravages of some lunatic with a big enough budget to create doomsday devices with ridiculous names like the ?Magnomizer?. He seems to have no reason to want to destroy the surface world beyond wanting to destroy it, but that motivation seemed plenty for me at the time. I imagined I would enjoy beating up a two-dimensional super-baddie with an army of killer robots, but then the actual gameplay pretty much squashed that bit of wishful thinking. The characters, Mr. Incredible and Frozone, are both playable in the single-player mode. Both bring different gaming mechanics to the table, but the waves of enemies and the bosses that can take more of a beating really favors the hulking, strong guy with the power punches, not the skinny guy with the pretty freeze rays and the gentle slaps that are laughably called ?ice punches?. In two-player mode, Frozone can be helpful if you find someone willing enough to be your side-kick while you go on bashing, throwing and pounding things with your bare fists. Since the ?play? part of ?gameplay? ends up being a bit of a chore, Frozone?s character ends up with the unenviable job of being just an assistant on a less than thrilling adventure.
Despite this imbalance, the power sets are interesting enough for both characters. Using an upgrade system similar to X-Men Legends, you can pump up the stats (although the levels cap at three) to better your arsenal of standard attacks. Now that I think about it, a lot of this game is very much like X-Men Legends: switch characters on the fly with the D-pad, beat up an endless horde of nameless enemies, upgrade specific abilities like melee attacks, combine powers for puzzles, and Frozone even creates bridges over gaps like Iceman! Only, it lacks the fun that the mutant button masher had. The developers should have allowed for new powers, beyond the mega-charged super-moves, to be unlocked as the characters progress, and capping the upgrades at three for each power really made it seem unnecessary to add the feature into the game at all.
There are a few puzzles and platforming elements thrown into the mix that require a varied use of your super-abilities, but not enough to notice, except when involving cheap deaths. Occasionally you need to switch back and forth between characters to cross chasms or destroy long-range weapons if Mr. Incredible or the robot guards accidentally wiped out the throwable objects littering the place. It would have been nice if Frozone had the added ability to shoot ice-projectiles or fire a really long range freeze beam, but despite the promise of a partnership, this really is Mr. I?s show. The worst aspect of the puzzles and platforms comes from the camera. It happens to be fixed on a track throughout the game, so lining up some jumps in the sewer level (called the Sludge Station, but unsurprisingly looks like a typical sewer level) often impairs your view enough to allow you to jump gleefully to your death.
This ignorant camera that refuses to do anything for you gets really iffy when fighting a bunch of machines outside of the range of vision in some of the wider levels. This can really throw you off, as being unable to manipulate the view to, you know, see things can be tiresome. Luckily, most of the traps and attacks by hench-bots and bosses seem to change little throughout the game, and come dangerously close to making you yawn rather than worry. Since the game is generous in regenerating a single hero if he has been knocked out, the fights become even less interesting while you take the surviving member of the team and run around dodging attacks waiting for (most likely) Frozone to revive.
As for the graphics, I have to admit that the developers did a decent job. The characters look clean and resemble their movie counterparts. I have a particular fondness for the art-deco, comic book design that Pixar used in the original film, and it translates well into the game, especially the dash blurs that cover Mr. Incredible and Frozone when they dodge around the screen using the right analog stick. The menu presentation is fine and the special effects for the use of super-powers look sharp.
My biggest complaint has to be the level and enemy designs. Most of the game is spent underground fighting carbon-copy, rust-buckets in dreary rust-colored or metallic corridors and platforms. The robots attack with drills, hammers, the occasional shower of sparks and lasers, or sometimes a combination of two abilities. Tactics involve running right up to you, shielding their metal frames until you smack them around anyway or just lobbing slow moving projectiles at you from a distance. The boss fights pretty much end up being the same thing except they might surround you with more robots while running around for a bit.
The level backgrounds suffer from a lack of imagination also. Like old cartoons where the background seemed to never change as a character like Fred Flintstone or Scooby-Doo would run down the street, I had this eerie feeling that every time I moved forward, I had seen the new area I was entering before. Obstacles involved giant computers (like old-fashioned, vacuum-tube machines from the forties big), laser fences, iron doors, and weird, rotating, spiked columns. The only occasional changes of scenery included gray streets, white snow, green sludge and magma (gotta love that melted ore, since you find it in just about every game these days).
The sound department is where The Incredibles: Rise of the Underminer actually does some good. John Ratzenberger, a veteran of Pixar movies, reprises his role as the villain, and does a great job with the silly, long-winded rants of the undersized Underminer. The rest of the voice work is better than average and even funny at times. Some of the robot bosses really get across the kind of humor the movie was known for with dry, sarcastic moments that depict them more as petty bureaucrats rather than evil machines bent on helping a bad guy destroy the world. The music also does a good job of getting that cinematic feel with the jazzy horns, and it should, since the original composer from the movie actually created a new score. Still, the sound effects, like tons of metal objects exploding, are merely okay with nothing really grabbing your attention.
Unfortunately, the humor and pseudo-sequel storyline do not make up for the fact that the gameplay is repetitive and simplistic, while the game itself is drastically short. With two players, the teamwork and use of the special powers can be gratifying, but still ends up wanting. A single Saturday afternoon should be enough to conquer the underground clown, and after that, you probably won?t want to do it all over again even with a friend or lackey to come along with you.
Being a fan of the movie, I do appreciate the fact that this game isn?t really, truly bad. However, being said fan, I feel cheated by the lack of difficulty, the mindless pressing of one or two buttons, the similar level environments and the few hours of gaming that don?t scream ?feature-length sequel? to me. It would have been nice for people who enjoy The Incredibles universe to be given a meaty follow-up or even a lengthy side story to satisfy us until there comes a time that Pixar might create a sequel film.. Truthfully, I am still unsure why the game is called The Incredibles: Rise of the Underminer in the first place. Since Helen and the kids don?t join in the game. While daddy Incredible runs off with his bowling buddy to have some fun, it might as well have been called Mr. Incredible plus Special Guest. The paint-by-numbers action doesn?t kill the game entirely, but without any real diversity throughout the linear levels, plus the extremely short duration, the game is placed squarely as a rental for fans of The Incredibles[i/]. For everyone else, move along. It?s nothing you haven?t seen before.