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   PlanetDreamcast | Games | Reviews | MDK 2
    MDK 2
What�s your fashion statement today: Flight suit, lab coat, or dog collar? - Review By Jetzep

MDK 2 Logo Video game players are a pretty independent bunch, but one trait they must share is the need to save stuff. How else can you explain the fact that this theme runs through many of the most successful videogames ever made? In Mario you�re saving the Princess. In most RPGs you�re usually saving, amongst many other things, your sacred honor. And in action games, you usually just have to save your butt.

Enough smalltalk. In MDK2, it�s time to save the world, again - but this time, you�ve got to go completely schizo to do it. Why? Read on.

  • The Good

    The alien architecture is unique and well done.
    The original MDK for the PC stopped you in your tracks, right? It had humor, radical graphics, and an amazingly addictive sniper targeting system integrated right into the powered suit worn by Kurt Hectic, the main character.

    MDK2 gives you all that and more, where the "more" comes in the form of two extra characters, bringing the player character count up to three. Joining Kurt are Dr. Hawkins (the scientist who invented Kurt�s combat suit) and Max, a four-armed robotic dog who was invented by the good doctor. But that�s not all. Much like Rayman 2, MDK2 takes great advantage of the Dreamcast hardware. The ample RAM is used to serve up a steady helping of hi-res texture maps over complex (and consistently pleasing) geometry, amazing vertex-based colored lighting and shading, and a ton and a half of particles.

    This may sound like overkill, but the game showed good forethought even before the start/load screen and intro movie. Interplay and Bioware both chose simple logo screens that flash on and off, well (to borrow a super hero metaphor), faster than a speeding bullet. There's no wacky and gratuitous animations to sit through. Thanks, guys.

    The game�s first screens pay homage to early action comics and set up the story quickly and concisely. After transitioning from 2D to 3D (mercifully, a super quick cross fade), there is a short setup of the present day plot predicament, which is *gasp!* a recurrence of the alien problems that plagued the original game.

    The game�s ten levels are divided somewhat equally amongst the three characters. You start out as Kurt, dashing around a gigantic alien MOMD (machine of mass destruction), using your suit�s gliding ability and sniper scope to send just the right amount of heavy metal death downrange toward pinpoint targets and/or boss characters. On finishing this first level, Kurt gets captured, so you must progress through subsequent levels as either Max The Wonder Dog or Dr. Hawkins (more about them later).

    The Max segments let you kick back and cause massive carnage with four guns simultaneously.
    Veteran button mashers will fail at MDK2 because every button has a function: the right-hand buttons control character movement, and the analog controller swings the camera around. The D-pad activates sniper mode, and, handily enough, controls the lobbing of grenades and such outside of sniper mode.

    All the characters control the same, Turok style. That is definitely a "good" because it allows the player to focus on mastering the individual elements that make each character unique. As you might guess, these same unique elements make each character well-suited to the levels he must battle through.

    First of all, Kurt makes good use of his suit to zip around, kill bosses, and solve puzzles. He is a wonderful mixture of speed, agility, and firepower. However, he�d be totally lost without that sniper scope.

    Next, Max makes McGruff look like a wiener dog. He can grab a weapon in each hand err, paw, and use them all simultaneously, making him the canine equivalent of a gatling gun. Also, for short periods of time he can "go rocketeer" on the bad guys by using a jet pack (thoughtfully provided by Dr. Hawkins). Watch out, though; fuel is in short supply and must be recharged between uses.

    Lastly, Dr. Hawkins is sort of like a cross between The Absent-Minded Professor and MacGyver. Without giving away too much of the plot, he is able to negotiate past aliens, roadblocks, and other challenges by combining various acquired items into new, more useful objects. For instance, by combining his own Keds with magnets and a roll of tape, *voila*, you get magnetic boots for walking around on the outside of a spaceship. Pretty nifty, but believe me, the combinations aren�t always even this intuitive.

  • The Bad
    This is a great game, but no game is perfect. MDK2 does have its faults, and most of them are spawned from the fact that the game is so damned difficult to complete.

    Considering he's a scientist, Dr. Hawkins sure has to jump around a lot.
    For starters, you really have to think like an alien to play MDK2. That is, you have to be able to use every Dreamcast button in the right manner, sometimes simultaneously, all without pausing to consider what button to push for even a nanosecond. The game seems to use every button and combination of button to do something that�s really very important. And nearly every button can have a different function depending on what mode you�re in; that is, in sniper mode, out of it, etc.

    MDK2 is very true to its platform roots, which is good. However, the game takes platform hi-jinks to a new level. Some of the split-second decisions can be measured in heartbeats, and a micrometer should have been included with the game so that the distances between the game's many ledges could be measured prior to the inevitable jump. In fact, because of the way his levels are designed, Dr. Hawkins and the "long fall to your death" quickly become bosom buddies.

    Exacerbating the difficulty issue is that save points are pretty darned scarce in this game, especially after extremely challenging areas.

    You can become good at playing MDK2 pretty quickly, but good just ain�t good enough if you hope to finish the game from stem to stern. You�ve got to be 360 degree, 24/7 seamlessly good, and then you�ve still got to have a little luck on your side, mostly in seeing where the Bioware guys are going with their puzzle elements. Most casual videogamers aren�t going to have that kind of skill or luck. Patience and determination will be their only refuge. Of course, the veteran gamer will just take a Visene break at game hour 80, crack a new six pack of Red Bull, and keep on sloggin�.

  • The Final Word
    Although it has no female characters (I�m only guessing here that none of the aliens are female, of course!), MDK2 is as close as it gets to sex in a box for hardcore gamers. Without drawing too many parallels between sex and MDK2, let�s just say: 1) it�s easy to learn, but hard to master; 2) it�s wonderfully addictive; 3) you only get out of it what you put into it, and 4) humor (or secrecy) is the best way to cover your own inadequacies.

    All right, all right... that may just qualify as too much information. Why are you still here? Go buy MDK2.

    Developer: Bioware
    Publisher: Interplay
    Genre: 3D Platform

    Highs: Fantastic graphics and animations, cool puzzles, great control.

    Lows: So difficult to complete you�ll break down and cry (especially if you forget to put the VMU in before playing three quarters of the way through).

    Other: 1 Player, VMU Compatible, VGA Box Compatible, Jump Pack Compatible.

    Final Score:

    (out of a possible 10)

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