keskiviikko 8. tammikuuta 2014

REVIEW - X-Men II | PC | 1991

GENRE(S): Action / Adventure / RPG / Roguelike
DEVELOPER(S): Paragon Software
PUBLISHER(S): Paragon Software

So, the 1989 game commonly known as X-Men: Madness in Murderworld actually got a sequel; as it turns out, the game was X-Men II by informal title only, to clarify the fact that these games were developed and published by the same company. As a game, X-Men II - or X-Men II: The Fall of the Mutants, as it is commonly known - is totally different from its "predecessor". What we have here is an "RPG" that kinda looks like Gauntlet by a quick look, and swipes a bit off from console RPG's too. In truth, what we have here is a totally incoherent, incredibly cryptic mess of a "game", that just might've been conceived during one single drunken night at the Paragon offices. It's so ridiculously bad it's nearly entertaining.

And your first challenge is: getting to the title screen

The X-Men go on a search and rescue mission to find their missing comrades Storm and Forge, who have been kidnapped by the Adversary, and run into the Freedom Force. Both opposing teams are caught in a time warp which causes serious ripples in time, causing barbarians and dinosaurs to run rampant in modern Dallas... and seemingly not much else worth mentioning...

Until about a week ago, I knew nothing of this particular pair of X-Men games beyond its existence. When I finally got around to this phase of the marathon, totally stunned at how royally the first NES game actually sucked, I was pretty much ready to doom this whole marathon to hell. However, I saw a lot going for the first DOS game before I even started it and I got my hopes up for a decent curiosity item. Perhaps I wouldn't go as far as to call it even decent, but it had good ideas. Perhaps with the sequel, those good ideas would be translated to an actual game a bit better. Then it turns out that the game has virtually nothing to do with the previous one, even though it's dubbed X-Men II. And, although once again it differs from the usual superhero schtick, its good ideas go to waste in a terrible game. Wait... what good ideas...? X-Men II is such pain from the very start - even before the start - that I'm not sure whether I should score the game at all. Then again, it does look the part. And, I laughed at it - let it be known that I was not even able to laugh at the NES game.

Whoa. That's what I'd like to see in an X-Men
movie. Or not.
Starting this game up is a challenge of its own. Uatu the Watcher shows up and asks for your preferred settings for a/v, controls and combat (either unanimated, turn-based combat out of a role-playing card game or side-scrolling action, just guess my ultimate choice), and doesn't seem to respond to anything, especially actual changes to the settings. You can just keep pressing Enter to get forward, but that doesn't help you a whole lot, now does it? Some changes have to be made for this game to actually run. Well, you have to press the starting letter of each option; figured that out on my third try to get the game started. Choosing characters is easy enough, and there's quite a lot of them. You get five picks from a total of 15 X-Men, that's pretty rad. Well, then comes area select. Pressing those letters from before doesn't help. Enter doesn't help. Nothing seems to help. The game seems to have crashed, until you take a wild guess and press 1, 2 or 3. Now you're cooking... or are you?

So, the game is a roguelike RPG, meaning it's one confusing pile of randomly generated screen upon another, filled with traps and power-ups only one of your party can disarm or use, respectively. Who? No idea. How do you change party members? No idea. You have two weeks (some tens of minutes of in-game time) to finish an area. It even implements a day/night cycle, which however has close to no effect to the game. If your party leader dies, he dies, and the turn to lead the group moves on to the next mutant until you've run out of your trap fodder. Those traps pop up everywhere, all the time; it depends on the level, too, I guess, but the point is that you have no way of knowing they are there. Or if you do, I didn't figure that out. Your mission in each of these levels is to find not one, but two members of the Freedom Force, and defeat them to proceed to the next area. After each of the three areas has been cleared, I'm guessing a fourth area unlocks and you will fight against the Adversary.

Of course he does.
Be warned that getting through one area is a bitch. As if the general overhead controls weren't bad enough do drive you out of your mind, there are those traps and dead ends everywhere. Even one screen might change if you exit and re-enter it. I'm not completely sure about what I'm about to say, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if the game occasionally hit a glitch and denied you an exit completely, like in the last roguelike game I've played, the abysmal Fatal Labyrinth on the Genesis. The beat 'em up-style combat might be more exciting than the turn- and card based that's offered as an option in the beginning, but it's definitely not good. First of all, the two different attacks you have at your disposal are assigned to keys as unpractical as Pg Up and Pg Dn. Simply walking around is hard enough, and it looks retarded as the character turns around by his will and that alone. I've not even come to the best part yet. You encounter an enemy, you beat him just like that, you're still stuck in the battle screen. The only way you're getting out of the battle screen is Esc, which translates to the game as "Flee". The game proclaims how you attempted to escape the battle - no, I was just trying to carry on this fool's errand!! The enemy you just beat is still there on the overhead map, and you will encounter him - or rather, his corpse - again and again, until you manage to somewhat slip away from him on the map. As you make your way forward - that is, if you're lucky - these same enemies will start appearing out of thin air, usually just in front of you or even on top of you. Every time, it's the same strange deal. No, it doesn't get any more entertaining than this.

What were the creators of this completely senseless game on? Why in the world didn't they just heed the good potential and the feedback they got from the first game? Why, why, why did they make this game? Well, it was an experience, I guess.

+ Nice collection of X-Men to choose from...

- ...Whose identities don't really make a stinking difference to how the game will play out
- Completely senseless, randomly generated levels with awkward, not to mention invisible enemy and trap placements
- Terrible controls and retarded gameplay "mechanics" from field to combat

< 2.2 >

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