Version tested: PC
The premise of MDK2, rather like MDK before it, is that an alien race from another dimension has come bounding through space on streams of light and intends to repopulate the Earth by first steam-rollering the indigenous inhabitants. This would be all well and good from their perspective, except that nobody on Earth is terribly pleased about it. In a way you can feel their pain.
Above the Earth orbits The Jim Dandy, spaceship home of Dr. Fluke Hawkins, his janitor Kurt, and his homemade six-legged hound, Max. Having saved the world from the villainous alien leader Gunta Glut in MDK, Kurt and company are now thrown back into the fray to destroy yet more alien minecrawlers.
Storytelling takes place in game with often-hilarious cutscenes featuring the crazy trio. The voice acting is a little suspect at times, but on the whole passable. The humour also begs question at times. This was one area in which you could never fault Shiny, the company behind the original MDK. Dave Perry always knew his sharp English humour, but it seems that Bioware do not, as some of the jokes simply don't raise a smile. I actually cringed on occasion.
But apart from the occasionally poor sense of humour, Bioware have done a sterling job of continuing the MDK legacy, so you can wipe that tear from your eye...
If you have played the original MDK as much as I have, starting out in MDK2 will feel very comfortable. Don't make the mistake of thinking that there won't be more advanced things for you to learn though - I made the mistake of dashing off without listening to the Doctor's brief tutorial, and eventually was forced to come back in order to work out the answer to a puzzle later on.
Bioware have done a good job of sustaining the feel of the MDK world in that the visual style looks almost exactly the same. Due to the authenticity of the textures and the detail on Kurt's bodysuit, you feel immersed in the MDK universe.
Of course, the graphics themselves have been vastly improved, and if you reload MDK to compare them, garish pixellations and jagged single polygon platforms will meet you. It's quite amusing to see how the original game has aged and been reborn.
MDK2 takes full advantage of lots of new technologies such as hardware accelerated Transform & Lighting, which has been causing a sustained buzz in the industry of late. The colours are vivid and lighting atmospheric, and the real time reflections in the ground as little Kurt wafts around the enormous chasms and halls are simply breathtaking.
Fans of the original MDK will remember the freefall parachute sequence at the beginning of each minecrawler sequence, and this returns in MDK2. You now glide in at an angle to meet the crawler, while being shot at by the usual laser beams and heat-seeking rockets. Using the cursor keys or mouse to dodge these is good fun, but by the last few levels it can become a little tedious.
The sniper scope, one of the original game's major innovations, returns with a vengeance. Selecting the scope pops up a new screen with a zoomable view and a selection of different bullets, including mortars and other popular weapons from the previous game. The ability to take out opponents from a mile away from their positions is fun and important to the overall sense of scale, although not all of the levels depend on your use of this ingenious firearm.
That's largely because you can now also play as the Doctor and Max! Both have similar controls to Kurt, but due to the lack of the sniper scope the style of play differs greatly, which brings some much-needed variety to the rather linear gameplay.
With the Doctor, you have unique control over both his hands, and by picking up and combining certain items you can create mass destruction. Hardly an action man, but nevertheless a devastating source of explosives and carnage if you use him right. The same can be said of Max - he can simultaneously hold up to four weapons, and still have room for his customary Cuban cigar!
Otherwise MDK2 takes on the same basic style of play as the original game, presenting you with several enormous arenas, each consisting of a disguised puzzle or challenge, connected by claustrophobic walkways and tunnels.
This is acceptable because the game is so entertaining, and finding the solution to the puzzle is very satisfying, often requiring some pretty lateral thinking. It's a pleasant blend of challenging puzzles, exciting, intense gameplay, and creative use of your inventory. With new items accompanying the old favourites, and a larger spiel to help out Max and Dr. Hawkins, there is always a solution hiding somewhere. As with the original, it's very linear, but who cares!
And, as with the original, the soundtrack complements the action perfectly. As I played through MDK2 my mind wasn't on the soothing tunes playing in the background, but I would rather they remained. A far cry from the booming rock music that accompanies the menu system, which, just to put the icing on the cake, is wonderful.
With so many interesting things to do and unique puzzle-driven gameplay, the fact that it still harbours a linear style of play can be discounted to a certain extent.
Reinvigorate your childhood fantasies of living in a cartoon and pick up MDK2 - there ain't much better in the genre.
9 / 10