From Bens review of Evolution 2, I can tell he didnt play the first part. I know because the sentiments he expressed about the sequel are very similar to my critique of the original. Those exposed to the series for the first time—whether it be part one or two—are bound to have a positive reaction. The unusually lighthearted, comedic and good-natured feel to both games make for a very likable and approachable initial experience. The only problem is that being different for the sake of being different will only cover your mistakes for so long and get you so far. Evolution 2 is a classic case of creators resting on their laurels and going back to the well too many times with the same old material.

The first Evolution game was far from perfect, but I still have a soft spot for it because it had a fresh take on the RPG genre. The game may have been overly repetitive in design, but I hardly ever noticed because I was still getting to know these wonderfully personable characters; appreciating the joyful graphics; figuring out the nuances of the battles; and still trying to see what new abilities and attacks my party would learn along the way.

The problem with the sequel is that it follows the exact same structure as the original with very little deviation, improvement or even refinement. The game never really bothers to introduce any significant new characters or game mechanics. Heck, even the quirky "abilities" that I loved so much in the original were merely ported over in the sequel rather than coming up with entirely new ones. To be fair, there may have been some new attacks or general differences in the gameplay and characters, but nothing significant to the degree that really caught my attention.

So without any new innovations to keep me interested (or distracted), I was forced to focus on the titles more fundamental elements, like gameplay and design. What I found much more apparent this time around was how boring, repetitive and unchallenging the game could be. No longer impressed by style, I had to focus on what little substance that was there. That basically entailed one annoying battle after another with dull-as-dirt monsters and sleep-inducing dungeon layouts. The only thing that drew any sparks for me were the boss battles (and that was mostly because I knew the stage was close to finish, and I could take a nap since I was already feeling so groggy).

Its really all a shame because the developers had in their hands a decent creative commodity that could easily be stretched out into a long-running franchise. But instead of going back to the drawing board and reevaluating what worked and what didnt from the original, the developers basically rehashed the same title twice. That philosophy unfortunately is contradictory to what I liked about the original title to begin with. The developers need to identify those innovative qualities from the original, redefine them, come up with more exciting ideas, and fix all the old problems as well (sounds like recipe for almost any sequel actually). Maybe then well have on our hands a classic title in the making and not another forgettable RPG amidst a sea of mediocrity.

Though keep in mind that this review comes from someone who played and enjoyed the original. If you are new to the series, there may still be some enjoyment to be had from the positive qualities that Ben and I mentioned about the sequel. Rating: 5 out of 10

Chi Kong Lui

Chi Kong Lui

In the 1980s, Chi grew up in small town on the outskirts of New York City called Jackson Heights. Latino actor, John Leguizamo referred to the town as the "melting pot of the world," and while living there, Chi was exposed to many diverse cultures, as well as a bevy of arcade classics such as Pac-Man, Space Ace, Space Harrier and Double Dragon. Chi's love of videogames only seemed to grow as his parents finally caved and bought him an 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (after being the only kid in the block without one). In the 1990s, Chi finagled his way into the prestigious Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts.

Somewhere between all the gaming, Chi some how managed to finish high school and get into the New York Institute of Technology. At the same time, Chi also interned at Virtual Frontiers, an Internet software consultancy where he learned the ways of HTML. Soon after acquiring his BFA, Chi went on to become the lead Web designer of the Anti-Defamation League. During his tenure there, Chi was instrumental in redesigning and relaunching the non-profit organization's Web site.

Today, Chi is the webmaster of the American Red Cross in Greater New York and somehow managed to work through the tragic events of September 11th without losing his sanity. Chi considers his life's work and continues to be amazed that the web site is still standing after the recent dotcom fallout. It is his dream that will accomplish two things: 1) Redefine the grammar of videogames much the same way French film critic Andre Bazin did for the art of cinema and 2) bring game criticism to the forefront of mainstream culture much the same way Siskel & Ebert did for film criticism.
Chi Kong Lui
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