maanantai 25. maaliskuuta 2013

REVIEW - The Incredible Hulk | SNES | 1994

GENRE(S): Action
RELEASED: August 1994
DEVELOPER(S): Probe Software

Since his conception in 1962, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's Incredible Hulk - or just Hulk - has become one of Marvel's most instantly recognizable and unique characters. He was never really a superhero, more of an uncontrollable bioweapon, an animal, that channeled most of his rage towards the people he found threatening, who just happened to be the bad guys. Hulk's legacy has remained strong thanks to an extremely successful 70's live-action TV show, which was followed by a total of four TV movies, three namesake cartoons - one of which will premiere this summer - a couple of animated movies, not one but two blockbuster films released in the last ten years, and finally, the character's appearance in the highly successful Avengers movie. Despite Hulk's success and his great potential in the video game scene, there haven't been too many games under the Hulk brand. And, even the most known game in the small bunch isn't that awesome - here it is: The Incredible Hulk.

Now I'm angry

The very sensitive and withdrawn Dr. Bruce Banner has developed a very awkward condition resulting from exposure to a gamma blast. Whenever he feels his life is in danger, or whenever he gets overwhelmed by strong emotions such as sorrow or anger, he transforms into a monstrous superhuman being bent for destruction, known as the Incredible Hulk. His arch nemesis, Dr. Samuel Sterns, a.k.a. The Leader, has assembled a group of supervillains consisting of Abomination, Absorbing Man, Rhino and Tyrannus, to get rid of the Hulk once and for all. Time to get angry; HULK SMASH!

You were saying...?
When it comes to Hulk and him exclusively, I have a confession to make. I've never read one Hulk comic book, and watched both of the most recent movies with just one eye open. I never watched one episode of the show which made Hulk popular, 'cause, well, it was dated beyond belief when I was born, as far as make-up effects went. I actually watched the 80's movie (the third one?) with Kingpin and Daredevil in it back in the day for reference when I wrote a review of Affleck's Daredevil for a school assignment, and I laughed my balls off, that's my most essential memory of the whole thing. My knowledge of Hulk is pretty much limited to his guest appearances, memes, and last but not least, the classic spoof of the TV show in an old issue of MAD Magazine. Well, that's quite enough, ain't it...? It's not like Hulk's the most multi-layered character in the Marvel universe. I think most of his popularity stems from the desire for destruction within every human being. Some people never get their fill.

In theory, Hulk is excellent video game fodder due to his primal instinct for violence and destruction, but as stated, there haven't been that many games with Hulk in a starring role. Actually, though, the second Marvel game ever made starred Hulk - the first part of the Questprobe "trilogy" I chose not to review due to the fact that they're text adventures (I believe I've had just as enough of those as you have), released in 1984. This one came ten years later, in the huge tidal wave of Marvel games, and I believe this game was one of the more popular ones. I remember seeing actual ads for it, and not for any other Marvel game which came out around the same time, which already counts for something. A "friend" of mine actually had this on his Mega Drive (Genesis) system, but I don't remember seeing him playing it. Cool cover art featuring a familiar character sticks on you. As always, this cool cover art told jackshit about the game itself, or its quality. As far as the concept goes, it's pretty much what I expected, but I also thought it would be a little more entertaining as an actual gameplay experience. It's not totally bad, though.

Elevators which move by their own terms make
me angry.
I actually had two versions of this game lined up, the Sega Genesis version and the SNES version, but they're basically identical, so I chose the one that plays out better: the latter, hands down. However, the Sega version ironically looks better. Seems like this was a cheap port of a Sega game, not the other way around, which is made all the more ironic by the fact that the SNES version was actually released a while before the Sega version. What's ironic in my mind is that the Sega version actually garnered in some praise back in the day, to the point of being ranked one of the best Genesis games ever, while the SNES version's been bashed and like I said, I sincerely think the SNES version plays out a lot better. Not great, but definitely better than the so-called superior version of the game. Gone cross-eyed enough? Good. Let's just end this by saying that at least the Hulk sprite looks good, and the music is just plain horrible. No techno shit this time around, but the world's most generic and repetitive funk which plays all the way through the LONG levels, and only stops when the boss theme hits - which really is usually about 20 minutes into the level.

Well, at least there's some innovative level design to be enjoyed here - which was a shock to me after so many generic games on that front, even much more recent ones. Even these are just random ideas, though - like invisible platforms which become visible only when you're close enough, and rotating 3D platforms which  are all about good timing, switches which manipulate the environment etc. - there's nothing notable that would make you view the entirety of the game as any more or less a repetitive beat 'em up. Perhaps the levels are simply that long, and there are a lot of drones to smash up. And the same damn sub-boss in every damn level, using the same damn tricks and falling to YOUR same damn tricks every time.

Throwing rocks is cool. Watching them bounce
like rubber balls afterwards isn't.
Dropping below a certain health level reverts you back to the very thin guise of Bruce Banner, and once this happens in a boss fight, you can pretty much kiss your ass goodbye. You can use a gun, but you have only two desperate shots to fire at the boss before you're outright helpless against him, and the hectic movement and endurance of these bosses make it impossible for you to defeat them without your green peacemaker of a special friend. You can also transform into Bruce by your own will with the help of some Valium - well, that's what I interpret those capsules as - and as absurd as that sounds, the puny doctor can crawl through airducts and other narrow paths to some further power-ups, which are rarely found just lying around. One bullet eaten as Bruce, and it's back to the comfortable habits of the big ugly.

The game can be fun for quite a while, but the usual flaws rear head sooner or later. The totally unnecessary length of the levels comes later, the bad controls come sooner. Precision control is as satisfying as backhand masturbation, and collision detection is random at best. Luckily there are a lot of power-ups to cover up for the physical errors, if you have enough energy and time to search for them - like I said, they don't just pop up. The controls, forced exploration and the sheer length of the levels bring on a lot of the unwanted type of challenge...

Shock treatment from all sides. Fair.
...As do the time limit and the no-continue policy. OK, when I finally made it to the third level of the game after many tries, I was beginning to forgive the game for having no continues, 'cause if you're enough of a power-up scout and quick to learn the ways of the more challenging enemies such as the recurring sub-boss, you won't have that much real trouble, and there are even a few extra lives to be had with lesser effort than usual, to make things a lot smoother. The time limit can be a real bitch sometimes. There's this one boss who takes a million hits to go down, and you have a chance to throw one single punch at a time, with five-second intervals. Although this is pretty much the only way you can defeat this particular boss, unscathed at that, the time limit wasn't made to give a shit. All in all, the game's not that difficult. It's just simple and boring, much more so than you would first imagine, especially after hearing about that transformation stunt you can pull from time to time.

This game might make one angry and frustrated, but it's still one of the more playable games this far along the Marvelthon. I'm willing to bet some less advertised 16-bit games of the mentioned wave will give me a little more to chew on, especially since I was never that much into Hulk, but all in all, this was a decent experience which expanded my knowledge on the green subject at hand a little. I'm pretty eager to see what another game of the same title, but released almost a decade later, brings to the table.

+ Having both sides of Bruce/Hulk in action was a fresh idea in its time; too bad Bruce is useless in combat
+ The ideas for level design aren't exactly new, but at least they bring colour to what is usually expected from these types of games
+ Destruction is always fun, and that's what Hulk does best

- Awful, generic, repetitive music
- Simple, but heavy controls, and lackluster collision detection
- The levels stretch 'til eternity and back
- Power-ups are extremely rare to be simply stumbled upon
- Although you might learn to live without 'em, continues wouldn't hurt

< 6.5 >

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