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Publisher: THQ    Genre: Adventure & RPG
Min OS X: 10.2    CPU: G3 @ 266 MHz    RAM: 128 MB    Hard Disk: 1600 MB    8x CD-ROM    Graphics: 8 MB VRAM

The Incredibles: When Danger Calls
October 5, 2005 | D.G. Chichester

Click to enlarge

Jr. Speedster in classroom hijinx

Leap Tall Keyboards in a Single Bound
Breaking down these first four stages of action:

"Training Mr. Incredible:" Mr. Incredible—aka Bob Parr—needs to trim the gut he's built up over the years of non-heroics. And (in a scene mirroring one from the film) there's nothing that builds up a good burn like hefting train cars down at the rail yard. Or, in your case, hitting the space key. In this round, a green bar moves up and down a "power meter" positioned over Bob's head. Hit the space key when the bar is within a sweet spot inside the meter, and Bob pulls down on a couple chains to pulley-up a train car to either side of him. Miss the sweet spot and Bob wrenches his back, ending the round. The more you continue—or the higher you set the difficulty level—the faster the bar moves, increasing the challenge. After a certain amount of lifts, Edna Mode—the film's super-hero costume designer, and ostensible "hostess" of the game—pops up to rate your performance and urge you to "Do better, darling!" For that's the essence of each mini-game: repeat the same actions over and over to net higher scores.

"Kitchen Chaos:" Helen Parr, Bob's wife and the super-hero Elastigirl, is trying to bathe baby Jack-Jack in the kitchen sink while her other son Dash is racing about the kitchen at super-speed, causing all matter of mischief. The object here is to use Helen's stretching power to catch the dish-and-silverware that Dash is hurling about the kitchen. Why can't Helen use her considerable powers to lasso Dash? Lack of potential. Here, you drag the mouse back and forth and Helen's "arm"—a graphic that looks oddly detached from her body—tries to follow the motion in order to intercept the thrown object. Catch the plates and glasses and increase your numbers; miss too many and this game is done. The point is to keep catching until Bob arrives home, as indicated by a meter showing his approaching car. There's a secondary objective of hitting the space bar whenever the baby starts to cry, but since that doesn't really seem to affect your score one way or the other you can just as easily turn the volume down. The canned action in this section is especially annoying, particularly given Elastigirl's fluid and imaginative stretchiness in the theater. Same for the sound clips: Helen has little to say but says it many times, versus mixing up her dialogue more to go along with what Dash is destroying, or how close Bob is to getting home, etc.

"Violet's Diary Drama:" Super-speeder Dash is out to annoy his sister Violet, who is gifted with the abilities to turn invisible and to conjure up energy force fields. As Dash whips around the room stealing her personal possessions—including her diary—an annoyed Violet sits at the center of the screen on her bed, oddly inert. She's waiting for your mouse clicks, you see, so she can pivot her hands to fire out force field blasts meant to topple Dash off his feet. In fact, the intercepts can only happen at certain points on the screen where Dash is programmed to appear. And as to why Violet doesn't just turn invisible and confound Dash's thievery? Another trip down the ol' potential slide. The goal is to keep blasting Dash away from your objects until the Mom's vacuuming brings her down the hall. (Her domestic servant progress is indicated by a little vacuum meter.) If you don't click fast enough Dash steals all seven of Violet's things; teenage whining then ensues.

"Dash vs. Detention:" Dash is also up to no good at school. When teacher's back is turned, Dash plans to use his lightning speed to place a certain number of tacks on the hapless educator's chair. But Dash has only until the teacher has finished writing an assignment on the blackboard. Looking down on the classroom from an overhead view, you guide Dash by moving your mouse: he follows the back-and-forth, up-and-down motion, lagging slightly behind your lead, his momentum rising and falling depending on your mouse drag speed. The idea is sound, although the lag does introduce unwanted disconnect between your movements and Dash's response. Dash's approach can be derailed by a wrong turn running him into a desk, or by another student's thrown yo-yo or paper airplane. (For a kid who can run across water in the flick, this Dash lacks the mph to outpace most ordinary obstacles.) But if he can plant his tacks and return to his seat without incident, the player is rewarded with a screeching teacher and additional points to add to the cumulative high score.

Faster Than a Speeding Mousepad
Once a player reaches a certain point level on any character's "normal" activity, the "Incredibles" icon underneath that character's image lights up. Clicking the stylized "i" then switches the character from their everyday garb to their retro-red super-hero costume. Now choosing any character takes them into their respective "super" event—variations on the kind of gameplay "When Danger Calls" calls its own.

In "Velocipod Bowling," Mr. Incredible stands on a cliff opposite the entrance to bad-guy Syndrome's HQ; monopods—sphere-shaped monorail cars—whiz by on a nearby track. After Mr. Incredible grabs a monopod, mouse actions guide an onscreen arrow for trajectory. A power meter then begins to fill and when you click sends the monopod hurtling toward a grouping of velocipods (buzzsaw pursuit vehicles manned by Syndrome's henchmen). If the aim and force is in the zone, the monopod knocks velocipods off the screen. Mr. Incredible (and the player) have a limited number of monopods with which to clear the entrance of henchmen.

"Elastiboat Escape" apes a scene from the movie, wherein Elastigirl has warped her rubbery body into a lifeboat shape. Violet rides within, while Dash's super-fast leg motion propels them through the water. Looking down at the heroes in an isometric view, a player uses the keyboard's arrow keys to steer the boat around debris, and to pick up "speed boost" icons scattered in the water. (It really feels more like a Dash game than something that's taking advantage of Elastigirl's powers.) The goal is to make it to the shores of Syndrome's island. It's ridiculously simple to make the journey, and the arrival at the beach is woefully anticlimactic. As my son quipped, "Where's the bad guys?"

Violet is at the center of "Violet Surrounded," with the goth-esque teen targeted by Syndrome's sticky ball guns. As the projectiles splat in her direction, a player's mouse click can throw up a force shield to deflect the shot. The goal is not only to protect Violet, but to ricochet the sticky balls back toward a half-circle of evil henchmen. If they're knocked out of commission, Violet is considered the winner and the player is rewarded with an additional score.

With velocipods in hot pursuit, Dash races across a jungle background in a "100 Mile Dash." Left and right mouse movement regulates his quickness, while a mouse click helps the boy speedster leap up to avoid obstacles along the jungle floor. A second timed click pushes him even higher and allows him to land on the deck of one of the flying pods. From there, a timed tap on the space bar signals Dash to whack the henchmen pilot for bonus points. Of all the games, this is probably the one that comes closest to capturing the "gee whiz" factor of the character's film antics and energy.

Increasing the point total with this "Incredible" set of games then unlocks two additional activities. In "Frozone's Flamefighter," the icy super-hero stands at the base of a fiery building. As fire pops in and out of a grid of windows, players use the mouse to target a snowflake icon; a mouse click sends one of Frozone's ice blasts to knock back any flames shooting out of that particular window. Frozone's powers are based on moisture, so to freeze he must keep his water level up with gulps (clicks) from a water fountain at the base of the building. The ice man needs to keep the fire at bay 'til the fire department arrives on the scene. As target practice goes, this activity is not bad. But considering that players come into this game knowing Frozone from the movie—where he is the ultimate master of cool, effortlessly conjuring, controlling and skating along massive ice spectacles—it's hardly the "cool but crazy" game that "When Danger Calls" promises.

At last, there's the "Omnidroid Final Battle." With Syndrome's massive and nigh-on invulnerable Omnidroid robot smashing it's way through the city, the player exercises limited influence on the four Incredibles and Frozone in an effort to defeat the menace. As battle icons scroll into a white circle, the player uses the arrow keys to launch enough animated attacks to ultimately wear down and destroy the Omnidroid. This also mirrors a scene from movie itself: the sweeping, surprising climactic battle. Sadly, the execution here is far more claustrophobic and routine.

In both gameplay modes—"ordinary" and "incredible"—hitting certain scoring milestones pops up Edna Mode to reveals a good range of hidden features: video clips from the movies, line art that can be printed out for coloring, desktop wallpapers and icons, and even screensavers. They're decent incentives for completing all the games at least once. (But I question whether they're enough to send you back for a higher score in search of getting all the goodies.)


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