- The Washington Times - Friday, January 20, 2006

Superheroes and cartoon characters have become integral parts of the electronic entertainment industry. Around the world, youngsters and guys who can’t get dates spend countless hours in front of their computers and video-game systems.

With this in mind, I salute the melding of pop-culture characters and Silicon Valley with a look at some…

Comics plugged in

The Incredibles: Rise of the Underminer

($39.99)

THQ, Disney Interactive and Pixar Animation Studios team up to deliver to GameCube, Xbox and PlayStation 2 owners the latest adventure starring the city of Municiberg’s famed superheroes.

The Incredibles picks up wherethe blockbuster animated film left off as a pair of players take on the roles of Mr. Incredible and Frozone to cooperatively defeat a diabolical dirtbag in this action-packed third-person romp.

What’s the story? When the evil Underminer rises to the surface with a plan to pollute all of the major cities and rule the world, it is up to Mr. Incredible and his supercool pal Frozone to save the day. While Mrs. Incredible, Violet, Dash and Jack-Jack take care of things topside, Mr. Incredible and Frozone race underground to put a stop to the bad guy once and for all.

Characters’ character: Both heroes get to use their signature powers as they work through the lava- and toxic-waste-filled levels of the Underminer and encounter waves of his robotic minions.

That means Mr. Incredible uses superstrength to punch, slam the ground and pick up and throw objects and enemies, while Frozone relies on his freezing ability to cool off opponents, slide around environments and create ice bridges for the pair to continue their subterranean quest.

In addition, the characters can upgrade their powers through a point-distribution system as they defeat enemies and find icons to use in unleashing supermoves on all surrounding opponents.

Those in a single-player mission can quickly switch between heroes while slightly commanding their computer-controlled counterpart by using the controller’s D-pad.

However, the game is best savored by two players who, after squabbling over who is going to be the powerful Mr. Incredible, can work together in scenarios such as the one in which Frozone turns chunks of water into ice that Mr. Incredible flings at enemies. Or one player can pull levers to shut down deadly lasers while his pal keeps mechanized monsters on ice.

The characters look nearly ripped from the film; actor John Ratzenberger returns as the voice of the Underminer; and the voice doubles for the heroic pair sound nearly like the film’s original stars.

Parental blood-pressure meter: 120/80, normal. The game requires players to destroy an enormous number of metallic menaces in fiery explosions with no blood spilled. Also, heroes never really perish but are just exhausted for a set amount of time before they return to the battles.

What if I feel like reading a book? Dark Horse Comics published a four-issue comic-book adaptation of the film in 2004 that featured illustrations from the movie’s storyboard artist, Ricardo Curtis. A trade paperback that includes all of the issues, “The Incredibles” ($9.95), is available.

What’s it worth?offers a great way for a parent and younger child to bond within the world of video games. However, its brevity and uninspired game play makes it strictly for the under-10, hard-core Incredibles fan.

Pop bytes

A brief review of game titles that didn’t have time to get fully plugged in.

wrote it how it appears on the boxfrom D3Publisher

r Game Boy Advance, rated Everyone, suitable for players 6 and older, $29.99)

Japanese pop stars Ami Onuki and Yumi Yoshimura continue to climb the pop-culture ladder with a video game covering their animated exploits for Nintendo’s hand-held system.

Based on the Cartoon Network’s popular show, the action allows a single player to switch from controlling one girl to controlling the other as the two attempt to stop Number One Fan Melody from touring the world after she steals their equipment, clothes and manager Kaz.

The side-scrolling puzzle platformer features Ami, the Valley girl, who can jump superhigh and use her microphone to swing across chasms, and the rocker Yumi, who is the muscle of the pair and can move objects and use her guitar to crush obstacles and destroy mechanized Kaz-bots.

The action involves plenty of jumping, climbing and collecting musical notes, while interludes might find the girls in the tour bus blasting in a space-fighter-like challenge or petting their cats, Tekirai and Jang Keng, to recover energy for extra points.

In a clever twist, the girls also run into obsessed fans and paparazzi who cannot be slugged out of the way (the player will lose points) but can only be passed by either girl, who stymies the stalkers with power musical chords. The girls also have a supermove that has both of them briefly performing together to eradicate the likes of robots and dinosaurs.

game even offers unlockablecq@ content such as photo archives, clothing changes and a way to hear the group’s music.

For more information, DC Comics has begun publishing a three-issue miniseriesAP, Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi ($2.25 each), which adapts the pair’s cartoon adventures into a sequential-art format.

Zadzooks! wants to know you exist. Call 202/636-3016, fax 202/269-1853, e-mail jszadkowskiwashingtontimes.com or write to Joseph Szadkowski at The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002.

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