Dark Cloud 2
System: Playstation 2
I see, looking over my review of the first Dark Cloud, that I mention its lack of voice acting. This isn't a compliment I can apply to the sequel; there is voice acting, and there are cinematics, and said cinematics run very long. The voice acting at least tends to be tolerable, even if the density of cutscenes is irritating.
The real problem with this game is that it's just too long. It's fun, and it's neat, and it fixes a lot of the problems the first game had (no more thirst!), but it doesn't have as much depth of play as it has plain old length of play, and you'll find that you're getting rather tired of it well before you're finished. What does it play like? Well, like Dark Cloud. If you don't remember (or never played) the original Dark Cloud, it plays like nothing so much as Torneko: the Last Hope, which is a game I'm almost certain you haven't played. So basically I'm very helpful today, so leave a large tip.
The number of characters in need of development has been mercifully reduced since the original Dark Cloud, but the number of different ways in which they must be developed has been increased, for an overall gain in playability amounting to approximately three-fifths of pants all. You get only two characters this time instead of six, but they each have two weapons you need to develop and an alter-ego that also needs work, so it's really a lot like having six characters anyhow. Max beats things with wrenches (shame about Ratchet & Clank or that might have scored an originality point) and shoots the hell out of them with machine guns (which is cool due to being unexpected in a fantasy game), and can ride a giant robot called the Ridepod. Monica has the standard sword-n-sorcery setup, and can transform into monsters.
The game is pretty, and looks not a whisker like the original; the visuals are much more stylised. The old "rebuild the town" Georama mechanic is still in, but it's become simultaneously more complex and simpler; there are a lot more things you can do to customise the town as you rebuild it, but the game is a lot more clear about what you need to accomplish to get your bonus prize on a given board. In all, it's an improvement. There's also a rationalisation as to why you can just pick up and move houses and trees and such all helter-skelter, and it's the most irrational rationalisation I can think of offhand: it's because the seven dwarves follow you around in a flying saucer and beam things up on command. Seriously.
This is a fun little game that will give you some hours of entertainment, even if it gives you several further hours of play time. It also gives you an option I adore and would love to see become standard in video games: the female lead can be stripped just about completely naked without impacting her prowess in combat one bit. That's enough of a bonus to make up for the godforsaken golf mini-game it forces you to put up with.
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