Is it just me, or do today's action games tend to take themselves too seriously? Whether it's the gothic, violent underworld of Quake or the bloody corridors of Resident Evil, far too many games lack a sense of humor. However, every so often a game like MDK2 comes around and proves that an action game need not be malevolent to be suspenseful. Who would have thought that such a feat was possible, much less marketable in our present gaming culture? Clearly the developers at BioWare have taken a bold and creative step by turning away from the lurid environments that populate most action games and creating a humorous, heavily stylized virtual world. From the comic-book style cut scenes to even its darkest moments, MDK2 sustains an enjoyable tongue-in-cheek atmosphere that provides a refreshing break from the many somber action titles that populate store shelves. The result is a refreshing, unique gaming experience no gamer should pass up.
Like Ben, I was impressed with the relatively intuitive control scheme. Those who are familiar with Acclaim's Turok games for the Nintendo 64 should feel right at home. The graphics are stunning as well (though the characters are not quite as impressive as the worlds they inhabit) and the audio is a wonderful blend of atmospheric noise and pulse-pounding electronica. Ambient sounds, voices and sound effects are also done very well (scenes in which Kurt must charge through hallways past wall-mounted lasers are truly dramatic).
Ben makes some valid points about the game's lack of consistency (Kurt's stages are by far the most memorable), but I thoroughly enjoyed the adventures of the other characters, especially Dr. Hawkins. Some tedious platform jumping aside, Dr. Hawkin's adventures contain a sense of humor that Kurt's levels often lack (when was the last time you made a leaf blower out of an automatic hand dryer and some pipes?) and a healthy dose of brain-benders. Max's adventures, while enjoyable, are unfortunately devoid of strategy and fraught with frustration (thanks largely in part to some poorly designed jet-packing sequences). I wholeheartedly agree with Ben that the game should have allowed you to choose your character; the ability to take different paths through a level depending upon which character you choose would have truly brought MDK2 to greatness. That said, however, I found the different characters to be both refreshing and engaging.
Minor complaints aside, MDK2 is a wonderful game. The bizarre alien worlds are a vacation for the imagination. The characters, both protagonists and antagonists, are simultaneously funny and menacing. At times, the action gets incredibly intense. The dramatic, otherworldly nature of the game is only interrupted by the occasional flatulence or sarcastic remark—not to mention the humorous behavior and nonsensical babbling of the evil aliens that populate the game.
MDK2 is a fantastic and, unfortunately, frequently overlooked action game. Few games in recent memory so vividly fit the definition of "sleeper hit." It's a shame, because a game this good should not be missed.
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