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May 17, 2012

The Comics Console: The Invincible Iron Man Review

It’s a game like Invincible Iron Man that reminds me to enjoy not only the simplest things about life, but the simplest things about comic book video games. When this game hit shelves it was about as far under the radar as a game could get. Iron Man was years away from mainstream popularity, and next-gen superhero games were just starting to be taken seriously. Why should anyone have given the time of day to some Iron Man game on the GBA? Because the game was awesome, that’s why. And 10 years ago, only the real comic book and Iron Man faithful found out how big a hidden gemĀ Invincible Iron Man was.

The Invincible Iron Man

Publisher: Activision
Developer: Torus Games
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Released: December 15, 2002
ESRB: Everyone

Much like Tony Stark himself, this cartridge is quick, pretty, smart, and a blast to spend time with. But at its core, it’s extremely simple, though not too much so. A side scrolling platformer’s offerings are usually pretty predictable, and Iron Man is no exception, however, Torus Games does a great job of proving that sidescrollers are still worth your attention. As Iron Man, you’ll boost, thrust, and repulsor-blast waves of enemies. I know how generic that may sound to most, but the above average intelligence of your enemies and bombastic presentation of the gameplay help remold the best features of a cracking genre.

Though the game’s box art is something from the sleek Sean Chen days of Iron Man comics, inside the game is a caricatured, and even cute little Tony inside an adorable Protoclassic Iron Man suit. But along with being adorable comes an attitude. Basic repulsors and tackles only get you so far until you’re using your chest canon and bombs that can kill all enemies on screen. The latter weapon really comes in handy when your attackers jump you in massive numbers — and they will often. Each attack uses the suit’s energy, and you’ll have to collect orbs to refuel, or find a moment’s peace to let the suit recharge on its own. As flashy as all these attacks look, there’s a real heft to them and the main character. The way Iron Man not so much flies or jumps but boosts from platform to platform is just enough to make the Iron Man experience more convincing; and it’s those such subtleties and attention to details that are the icing on the cake throughout the whole game. In between waves of henchmen and robots, you’ll pause to appreciate the vastness of the environments the game takes you to. The backgrounds come to life as you scroll by in jungles, factories, and tundras.

The tragedy of this game is its criminally short life span. Only eight levels at about an hour to two hours, depending on your play style, is all the time you’re given with Mr. Stark and his favorite toys. A few extra levels and boss battles really would have made this game a true credit to the Game Boy Advance.

The story isn’t exactly Fraction or Busiek or Wein quality, but it’s told in impressive comic book fashion. When one of Stark’s Iron Man suits has been stolen, he sets out to reclaim what’s his, taking you up against the likes of Crimson Dynamo, Morgan Stark, and Blizzard. After the game, you’ll find comic book art and the usual bland unlockables to view, but I wish we would have seen different armor types to replay the game in.

In a time when superhero games were very miss, especially on handhelds, Invincible Iron Man is a big hit. This one is worth looking for on eBay if you missed out on it last decade.

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Andrew Hurst



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