When Dr. Bruce Banner loses control and transforms into Marvel’s jade giant, he’s pretty much interested in one thing: smashing. Smashing as much as possible. Seems like a pretty good idea for a videogame character – who wouldn’t enjoy playing as an indestructible beefy monster who can punch holes through walls, and pick up and throw objects ten times his own weight? Which is why it would be nice if you could do all those things in this game. Unfortunately, you can’t, and the Hulk really doesn’t play differently than any other platform character, making the whole game an incredible bore.
In typical comic book game fashion, a weak plot has been constructed to place as many of the comic’s classic villains into one plotline as possible, similar to the Batman TV show movie. In this one, Hulk’s nemesis Leader has built a vast fortress underground, and the green meanie must smash through characters like Rhino and Tyrannus, as well as millions of faceless military grunts, in order to get to him.
Sadly, smashing is something the big guy is not given much of a chance to do. A scant handful of walls in the game are breakable. Instead, the Hulk is usually rerouted through sewers and underground paths when he encounters obstacles that normally would not stop him, such as a three inch steel wall. Smashing straight through barriers is what the Hulk is about, not climbing ladders to go around them. This same lack of level interaction runs through the whole game – in the first level, the ONLY object you can destroy is a phone booth, and all you can do is punch the glass out. Hulkster can’t pick up the phone booth and crush a foe with it, or rip out the girders used as platforms and toss them into attackers. He looks like the Hulk, but he doesn’t play like the Hulk.
In addition, you only have a few moves at your disposal. One is a simple straight punch, the other is an uppercut triggered by pressing down and punch. Beyond that, the Hulk can jump, pull off an only mildly useful shoulder charge, and automatically grab enemies if they get close, then press a button to throw them aside. That’s it. The regular military grunts take four punches before they die – and that’s four Gamma-irradiated badass Hulk punches. He should be punching them through a few rooms with the first strike! Well-aimed tosses can send bad guys off the ledge you’re on, but even this won’t satisfyingly kill them, it will just remove them from your path. Speaking of gamma, when you collect extra energy, the Hulk becomes faster, punches twice instead of just once, and can do a weak sonic clap by pressing X and A at the same time. Still, where are the rest of his tricks? Why isn’t he pounding the ground to make earthquakes, and why is he only jumping five feet in the air?
For gameplay reasons, the Hulk is not indestructible. This sucks, but it’s understandable, as there wouldn’t be much of a challenge if you couldn’t be killed. However, the Hulk cannot naturally heal his wounds, though he can pick up health powerups. This is just another example of how the character’s image has been plastered on top of the framework of every generic side-scroller hero in existence. Though in a unique aspect, you can de-Hulk if you lose too much energy. At this point you will be the weakling Dr. Banner. Though you can still run around and have the chance to grab energy pickups so you can Hulk out again, this is highly, highly unlikely. You can’t fight as Banner, the attack button just doesn’t work anymore, though you can pick up a two-shot energy gun that will materialize near where you transformed.But don’t let that offer you any false comfort, once you’re Banner, you’re fucked.
However, Banner can get into some areas the Hulk cannot, which is sometimes helpful, and usually either leads to secrets or allows you to bypass some fights. You can collect pills that switch between the two forms, allowing you to alternately Hulk and Bannerize somewhat strategically. Still, if you’re playing your cards right, you can play through the entire game without ever needing to turn into “puny human” Bruce.
The graphics are a high point though, and mimic the artwork of the comics very well. Cutscenes, which play in pages of comic book panels, look nice as well, though not as solid as the standard game graphics. Sound, however, is only average, with single and forgettable themes running through each level, and stock sound effects. The controls are decent, which isn’t saying much, as there’s so little for you to do with them. The game is also unreasonably short, clocking in at a meager five levels. Most unworthy for the Sultan of Smash.
The Hulk is your typical licensed game, with a strong and unique character’s face put onto a formulaic scroller. Fans looking to play as their favorite demolisher will be disappointed by the extreme lack of demolishing to be had. It’s an average platform game, but a pretty crappy Hulk game, as there’s so few unique things implemented into the game that truly reflect the character and the universe.
Great artwork that perfectly fits the game. Somewhat true to the comic.