The Incredible Hulk is the second game in the Marvel Cinematic Universe line that Sega published. I had read that this game received mixed reviews upon release, so I managed my expectations accordingly. I’m no stranger to licensed games, so I was still open to what this game had to offer.
Let’s talk about my experience with this game today!
The Nintendo DS version of The Incredible Hulk is an action platformer that was developed by Amaze Entertainment and published by Sega. Based on the film, the game not only follows the same plot points as the source material, but it actually starts from the deleted scene where Banner tries to kill himself in Alaska. You’ll spend a couple of stages there, then the story will take you to Brazil and the United States as it follows the events of the film.
There are two types of stages, the most common are the platforming levels. Most of these are straightforward “get to the end” horizontal stages with a little verticality. But they don’t even have pits or gaps that you can fall through. The other type are swimming levels, which I enjoyed a lot. These required more exploration. Regardless of the type, you could really see that the levels were designed using a grid-based approach.
You’ve got a health meter in the game, and you can get power ups that will increase your max health in some of the game’s levels. When depleted, you die. However, you have unlimited lives and continues. You’ll just go back to the start of the stage you died in. The game has a save system with three save slots. There’s also a Multiplayer mode, but I wasn’t able to test that.
Moves and Abilities
The Incredible Hulk has the basic moves that you’d expect from action platformers. He can move to the left or right using the D-Pad. Pressing Down will make him crouch. He can also jump, as well as pass through platforms. His wide variety of attacks include standing punches, an uppercut, and a diving kick. The Hulk can lift up some objects and either use them in a melee attack or throw them.
Holding the R button will add “rage” to some of your moves, making them more powerful. I’ve used this to do a Rage Punch, which will destroy lines of barriers in front of you. But you’ll use this most frequently for Rage Jumps, which will make Hulk jump a lot higher.
He’s also got a Anger meter that fills up whenever you destroy parts of the stage or when you hit enemies. You can also pick up red Rage power ups to fill it up completely. It will deplete completely if you get hit by an enemy attack. When it is full, pressing X will grant Hulk temporary invulnerability. In this mode, you can even run into enemies to kill them. There’s a counter that goes up for every part of the stage that you destroy. The higher this is, the longer your Angry mode lasts.
Flagpoles and Satellites
The Incredible Hulk has this out-of-place mechanic revolving around flagpoles and satellites. So you’ve got these scattered around stages, and the only difference between the two is that flagpoles are attached to surfaces while satellites are floating in mid-air or underwater. They also have arrows pointing to a specific direction.
When the Hulk is in a square with a flagpole or a satellite, pressing A will send him flying into the direction that the arrows are pointing towards. This will help the Hulk reach really high areas or fly far away. This is also the only way to destroy a specific barrier type.
The game’s later levels are designed heavily around this mechanic. Later on, you’ll encounter satellites that you can only reach with the help of another satellite or flagpole. And there will be instances wherein these are chained together, requiring you to hop through them in succession to progress. Another frequent design around these is filling up a level with the special barriers. You’ll need to find the right flagpole or satellite to be able to break through them. It’s a good mechanic, but makes me feel like I’m playing a Sonic the Hedgehog game instead of a Hulk game.
The Map Screen
In The Incredible Hulk, the second screen is dedicated to showing a map of the level that you’re playing. And I’d say that you’ll often need to look at the map to see where you’ll need to go. Pressing the Down icon on the touchscreen will pause the game and let you look at different parts of the level.
Aside from showing you the layout of the stage, the map will also show you where every enemy is located. It will also show you the satellite dish that you’ll need to destroy at the end of every level. When you beat a level, the game will tell you how many enemies you’ve smashed and if you found the hidden collectibles.
You’ll certainly need the map if you plan on finding every enemy in a stage. And while it doesn’t show collectibles, the map will show you areas you might not have been aware of. So having the map visible all the time is definitely handy.
There are two collectible items in The Incredible Hulk. The first one is an icon of Hulk’s face. Whenever you get one of these, a special skin of Hulk is unlocked. These are purely aesthetic, but I think it’s a good feature for hardcore Hulk fans. These skins cover a lot of Hulk variants, such as the gray Hulk, Mr. Fixit, Hulk 2099, and even the Maestro.
Later on, you’ll also get to unlock skins of other characters. You won’t be able to use them until you’ve beaten the game once. And like the Hulk variants, these are purely aesthetic. My favorite is the Hulkbuster skin, and it’s a little disappointing that it doesn’t have any special abilities.
The other collectible looks like First Aid kits, but they’re not. It’s the same blue cross but in a circle icon. These are permanent upgrades to Hulk’s health. I kept mistaking them from normal First Aid kits and sometimes would skip them. You’ll need to get as many of these as possible, because it’s quite easy to take damage in this game.
I was already lowering my expectations for The Incredible Hulk in terms of it’s fights. It was based on the film, which didn’t offer a lot of characters (aside from Blonsky) that could be used as enemies, and most especially bosses. But I was surprised at the variety of enemies and bosses that this game had. You’ll face military personnel that’ll use different weapons in this game: rapid fire weapons, weapons with arcing projectiles, spread fire, and even flamethrowers. You’ll fight a few tanks and other grounded vehicles, as well as helicopters and fighter jets.
As for the bosses, the first one seems to be an abominable snowman or the Wendigo, a common Hulk opponent in the comics during the 80s. There are boss fights against special military machines and weaponry too, such as a large shark-shaped submarine and a robot outfitted with several weapons.
The boss fight that I found disappointing was the second one against Blonsky. He’s already been injected by the serum at this point, so he’s got enhanced abilities. But he was still human-sized in the film. Here, he’s a lot taller than the Hulk.
My only other complaint is that the boss fights are too short. The Hulk’s health meter is quite short, actually. He can’t take a lot of hits, and I think the boss fight were designed around this. If the boss fights lasted a little longer, they would have been more memorable.
Visuals, Sound, and Presentation
On paper, the graphics of The Incredible Hulk should have been impressive. They used 3D models instead of sprites for stages, objects, and the characters. But they don’t stand the test of time. They look quite squarish and blocky by today’s standards. My biggest gripe about the graphics is that everything looks so small. I think the game camera should have been zoomed in closer, especially since the second screen always shows a map of the stage anyway. The grid-based design is also too obvious and did impact my immersion in the game.
In terms of sounds, I liked the game’s themes a lot. I’m not exactly sure since it’s been a while since I’ve seen the movie but it seemed like this game’s themes were based on the official film soundtrack. What surprised me was the amount of voice acting in the game. All of the cutscene dialogue is voiced, and I think these were lifted directly from the movie.
In terms of presentation, the game is just at par. Menus are clear and easy to navigate, but the design is a little bland. And the cutscenes are a little unbalanced – there’s very few at the start and a lot near the end. I understand that the first half of the game doesn’t have anything to draw from, but I would still have appreciated some cutscenes to accompany what happens in the Alaska and Brazil stages.
While doing research on this game, I read that the developers ran out of time and had to rush production to meet deadlines. I can definitely see the effect of this in the finished product. The developers had some neat ideas, and I did enjoy playing the game, but I think that this game could have offered more in terms of mechanics or moves.
The Incredible Hulk is a decent game, but there’s not a lot that makes it memorable. I wouldn’t call it shovelware because it does offer some fun gameplay. I don’t think my time was wasted on this, but it’s hard for me to find a reason to recommend it to anyone except die-hard Marvel Cinematic Universe fans.