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Platform:  Dreamcast
# of Players:  1
Developer:  Bioware
Publisher:  Interplay
Features:  VMU, Jump Pack Compatible
Ratings:  Everyone
Memory Req.:  12 pages
I'm not a big fan of sequels, especially videogame sequels. Year after year, we gamers are force-fed the latest updates to whichever of last year's cash cows ran off with the most of our hard earned money, and despite little to no advances in visuals or innovations in gameplay, we go on like lemmings, plunging into a sea of mediocrity. I loved MDK on the PC, and found the Playstation port loads of fun, glitches and all. When I heard that the sequel was being created for the Dreamcast, I was a bit annoyed, especially since Shiny was nowhere to be seen on the programming end. But, Bioware Corp., developers of the great PC games Baldur's Gate, Planescape: Torment, and the upcoming Baldur's Gate II, took up the challenge, and they have created the best original Dreamcast action game to date, bar none.

From the comic book intro and loading screens, to the fantastic enviroments and sounds, MDK2 is a wonder to play, as well as watch. The blend of off-the-wall humor combined with the super precise control (with the stock DC controller!) and challenging gameplay will give you a kick in the pants, especially if you're used to having your way with games that are just average in their visuals and difficulty. While I was playing this, I thought of Rare's Jet Force Gemini, and how that game could have been a LOT better. There are a load of comparisons between the two games and a lot of others, but who cares? MDK2 squashes all comers like a grape. The game doesn't have or need the useless split-screen multi-player nonsense that gets crammed into so many action titles these days, but you'll want to invite some of your friends over just to watch you play. The story this time out takes place just after the last game ends, as Kurt Hectic, the hero of the first game, Dr. Fluke Hawkins, and Max, the robotic dog are about to celebrate their victory. A sudden blast from above lets them know that they opened that bubbly a bit too early! Now, all three of them have to team up in order to take the alien menace down for good.

Simple, and under lesser hands, boring and the stuff of bad sequels. But Bioware has made a game that on one hand defies the boring normality of most sequel-driven games , yet feels like an old NES game at heart. And like an old NES game, this one is hard as hell, in a way that challenges the player. Each of the three characters has different weapons and items to use, and the gameplay changes to accomodate their skills, or lack of them, in some cases. Kurt takes on his missions like Solid Snake, sneaking and sniping his way about the levels, Max is basically a canine version of Schwarzenegger, tossing his smoking, empty weapons aside ("Four arms means four guns!", as it says in the manual), and Dr. Hawkins is just plain crazed genius, with his big-headed analyses and weird arsenal of dirty towels, old pipes and a toaster (among other things).

As I said above, the control is quite precise, and the developers have decided to go with a Turok-style control scheme- movement is done with the A, B, X and Y buttons, the analog stick is used to look and turn, and the triggers are used for jumping and shooting. Surprisingly, this works a lot better than using the analog stick alone, and I'm hoping that a few companies (Capcom, Eidos, Konami, etc.) pick up on this ideal control for some of their key titles in the future. Also, the game camera is the best I've ever seen- even with a third-person viewpoint. The game is designed so that you can see what's going on at all times, and your character of choice will go transparent when necessary. Also, a great deal of the levels are huge, open multi-tiered spaces, givng players a great deal of ground to cover, and a number of ways to do so. the folks at Bioware are masters at level design, and it's safe to say that you'll never see quite the same thing twice, and even if you do, you'll love to look at it.

Graphically, the game is amazing- from the huge alien architecture, to the functional weirdness of the Doc's ship, you'll probably die a few times in the game just because you're stopping to enjoy the scenery. All the characters in the game move smoothly, and are full of personality- you'll notice the aliens doing the oddest things when you sneak up on them. The music, voices, and sound effects are superb, and the voice talent has nailed the characters perfectly. This is what voice acting in a game should be, and the outtakes are hysterical. There are also a ton of surprises hidden on the disc (Puppy Wuppy!) as well, for the extremely curious.

So, is there anything wrong with the game? Well, my complaints are few- the constant farting of some of the aliens gets annoying after a while (the guys at Bioware definitely played a LOT of PO'ed on the 3DO, I think), and the game can be really, really hard at times, with Doc Hawkins in particular. But if you made it through the first game, you'll relish the challenge this one serves up. If you played a lot of NES/SNES action games, you know it's all about the memorization of patterns, choosing the right weapon(s), and big ass bosses- I mean REALLY big, in some cases. These guys don't go down easy, and dish out punishment like your daddy after you broke his burl wood pipe. But remember, it's only a game, so take a break if you're having some trouble. Interplay's motto is "By Gamers. For Gamers.", and they really have a point there, you'll think as you're enjoying this particular game.

Personally, I think that the game succeeds so well, because it's not too long and full of "look what cool effect we have this level" smugness (Jet Force Gemini and DK64, anyone?, just great visuals, and the solid gameplay to back it up. Bioware is now my new developer of choice, and I wish them tons of success in the future.Personally, I'd love to see what they could do with a game like Syphon Filter or Resident Evil, but that's not for me to decide. Anyway, I hate to sound like that old Sega CD commercial, but just imagine my face popping onto your monitor, screaming: "You STILL don't have a Sega Dreamcast?!!!" Well, if not these last few months have been pretty dull for you, I'd imagine. Bottom line: Is MDK2 a great game? Is a bear pope of the woods? Hell yeah! Now go and buy a copy- and a DC, if you don't have one.

Greg Wilcox

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