- The Washington Times - Friday, September 16, 2005

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 character and Silicon Valley with a look at some …

Comics plugged in

The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction

(Vivendi Universal Games, $49.99)

Marvel Comics’ gamma-fueled green goliath returns to PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube entertainment consoles in this game. The third-person romp demands a single player take control of the misunderstood monster and complete more than 70 missions in an eight-chapter adventure that will appeal to comic-book fans as well as gamers in need of major stress relief.

What’s the story? Bruce Banner is at the threshold of a cure for his terrible affliction. After years of research, he has created an experimental device that may repair the damage done to his psyche and subdue the Incredible Hulk that rages within his troubled mind.

Working with his friend and mentor, psychotherapist Dr. Leonard Samson, Banner is nearing completion of his work when disaster strikes. The government launches an attack on Banner’s forest hideout, and during the ensuing chaos, the machine is destroyed.

With the help of a device that can turn Banner into the Hulk on demand, he must use his alter ego to retrieve the vital components necessary to rebuild his life-altering machine before time runs out.

Characters’ character: The game immediately elays an awesome level of original-source authenticity through a story written by popular comics scribe Paul Jenkins (who previously handled the monthly Hulk comic) with visual assistance from famed Ultimates artist Bryan Hitch and dramatic audio from actor Neal McDonough (who reprises his role from the 1990s Hulk cartoon as the voice of Bruce Banner).

Now, combined with an on-screen character who has evolving moves and attacks; who can roam freely and crush almost any part of his environment; and who becomes stronger as tanks, jets and robots attack him, the player will find destroying mankind to be more addictive and fun than ever.

The game mixes hunting for treasure to help save Bruce Banner’s humanity with collecting Smash Points to further transform his alter ego into an unstoppable force.

The Hulk runs along walls, uses telephone poles as bats and uses incredible force to jump while exploring ever-changing city and desert terrain. He eventually battles such familiar foes as General Ross’ Hulkbusters, the telekinetic Mercy, the Abomination and Devil Hulk.

Developers’ attention to the character’s powers is astounding and will lead players to such delightful visuals as watching the Earth react to an atomic Hulk stomp, having the goliath crush a truck and mold it into a pair of powerful metal gloves and enjoying the always-popular bowling with boulders.

Adding to the sequential-art experience, comic-book covers are hidden among the environments. Once collected, they also reveal hidden codes to change the Hulk’s pants design and convert the brute to such other incarnations as Jack Kirby’s gray Hulk and Peter David’s Joe Fixit, a suit-wearing, wisecracking, Hulkified enforcer.

How would Lt. Frank Drebin fare? “Hulk smash” became the battle cry for the usually fumble-fingered lawman as he easily was able to control the beast. Simple button schemes combined with occasional mashing maelstroms to allow him to backhand, punt-kick, sonic-clap, head-butt and grind enemies into submission through a full complement of 150 moves.

Parental blood-pressure meter: 140/100, elevated. The game brutally explores the savagery of the Hulk, who can even pulverize puny humans who get in his way. Players can pick up civilians, soldiers and creatures, hear a crunch and throw them to the side or toss them as missiles toward attacking enemies. Teenagers will be amused by the character’s seemingly endlessly attacking abilities. However, older Hulk fans will not remember their pounding pal being this out of control.

What if I feel like reading a book? Marvel Comics has brought the Hulk to life since 1962 through an endless supply of sequential-art books. I would suggest readers check out nine issues of Mr. Jenkin’s work in the trade paperback “The Incredible Hulk: Dogs of War” ($19.95).

What’s it worth?

Finally, Incredible Hulk fans can celebrate his transformation into video-game realms through a Hollywood-style presentation that taps into a player’s action-packed id as he delivers a monumental amount of destruction.

Pop bytes

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

Yu-Gi-Oh! Nightmare Troubadour from Konami

(For Nintendo, rated Everyone, suitable for players 6 and older, $29.99)

The popular cartoon and collectible-trading-card game, with roots going back to Japanese comic-book series from the mid-1990s, becomes part of Nintendo’s dual-screen, hand-held entertainment system in a strategic challenge that will mesmerize fans.

Players first look for famed opponents, such as Tea Gardner and Joey Wheeler, using a map and targeting system. They then take part in tournaments and matches that involve using powerful decks culled from more than 1,000 types of creature, spirit and trap cards as they fight their way to becoming expert monster duelists.

Winning translates into the accumulation of KaibaCorp points to increase health for battles or purchasing packs of cards from a virtual game store to strengthen a deck.

Thanks to the multifunctional DS, players use the touch-sensitive bottom screen to select and activate cards while watching colorful, animated battles unfold on the top screen. Additionally, a multiplayer option uses the hand-held’s wireless function to allow opponents, each owning a DS and game cartridge, to trade cards, duel and send deck recipes to each other.

The completely time-consuming experience even extends to real-life games: Konami throws in a trio of exclusive cards for Yu-Gi-Oh! fans to incorporate into their actual decks.

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

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