Everybody remembers the original MDK - although not many people actually went out and bought it -as being a somewhat strange but entertaining shoot 'em up/platformer. The sequel is even stranger, as a quick glance at the three main characters will show.
He's a six-limbed cigar-smoking robot dog whose levels focus chiefly on all-out blasting. Because of his multiple appendages, Max can use up to four different guns at once, with the developers being kind enough to leave enough ammunition around to ensure you're always well stocked. Unfortunately, the technique of selecting your weapons using more than one key is tricky, and doing so in a firefight can mean the distinct possibility of getting hit as you struggle to find the right one. It would have been far easier to assign each weapon slot to one of the function keys.
Max is a competent character at best. His levels may be simple, but they're fun and certainly more enjoyable than this next guy.
Doctor Fluke Hawkins
On the surface, the Doctor's missions sound quite interesting. Because of his comparable weakness to the others, you're supposed to rely on your logic and skill to defeat your foes. In fact the first of these levels starts off well, with you having to construct a leaf-blower to push your enemies towards the clutches of a giant man-eating plant. But this seems to be the only clever example as his tasks mostly devolve into platform jumping and shooting. But that still leaves you with his interface and control system, which are two of the most dislikeable things in the whole game. The platform sections are similarly annoying. It's difficult to judge jumps correctly and the controls just don't feel good enough to perform such actions anyway. Indeed, Doctor Hawkins is an all-round disappointment and the worst of the characters by a long shot.
Kurt's own specific blend of firepower and platforming exudes a certain something that the rest lack. Praise must go, in this respect, to the ribbon chute - a device that allows you to float gently to the ground - which seems to make all the difference to proceedings. While Max's jetpack and Hawkin's jumping cause frustration, unravelling this seems to give Kurt the edge in the control stakes.
And let's not forget the sniper scope. There has been an abundance of sniping since the original first appeared on the scene, but MDK2 still conveys a sense of impressiveness as you zoom onto your target. All of Kurt's levels involve the use of the sniper scope in some capacity, whether it's to operate inaccessible switches or shoot distant enemies, and it gives a level of satisfaction that proves exactly why sniping has become so popular in recent games.
Kurt's definitely the best character in terms of both play and design. He's not bogged down by a tricky interface or controls and, how shall I say it, feels just right. It's just a shame they didn't decide to base the whole sequel around him.
Hold On To Your Sides
Right, that's the characters out of the way. I think we've got time to briefly check out the hilarious plot: you have to save the Earth from the evil minions of a giant purple alien aide, Shwang Shwing (ha ha), by flying to the planet Swizzle Firma (ha ha) in your spaceship, the Jim Dandy (ha ha). Never let it be said that MDK2 is filled to the brim with humour. Yes, never.
And the rest? Well, MDK2s certainly a good-looking game but isn't everything nowadays? What does look impressive are the spacious rooms and chambers that engulf the players. What struck me most was the alien cityscape witnessed in a later level, with its vehicles zooming overhead and underneath as you run along walkways suspended above a fog-bound city. Naturally, it meant a slower frame-rate, but it shows off the engine a treat. Enemies are, for the most part, satisfactory. Auto-aiming makes killing them a little too easy and though most are quite similar, they never prove unfair. Or that much of a challenge, come to think of it. No, it's the end of level bosses that provide the best thrill. Most of the time it's not just a case of simply shooting at them until they keel over (at least, not at first), but rather to accomplish certain tasks such as shooting certain switches to gain the upper hand. These encounters prove to be the most fun, although, like the normal enemies, beating them is bit too easy after you've learnt their simple patterns.
The Bad Touch
As for what's left, it all boils down to a series of what can only be called touches that be the game together. Like its predecessor, the fact that you're not always going around mindlessly blasting is a large point in its favour. Even though there are plenty of ideas, as often happens, it seems to be a case of the developers pulling any 'wacky' idea out of the barrel without checking if it would actually be any good. For instance, the sub-games that start some of the levels and involve you trying to avoid oncoming objects. These are no fun at all and the controls make it more a matter of luck than skill. Worse, they're incredibly short and don't add anything, so what's the point?
Likewise, at one point you get to take control of a fish (called Chuckleberry Finn, those crazy guys), which could be OK, until you realise that you're stuck in a basic maze with yet more bad controls and unavoidable death. I mean, it may be entertaining to put a hat on a dead dog, but if you start dressing it in a suit and taking it out to dinner it begins to lose something. Especially if it buys the most expensive thing on the menu and spills wine all over the table. From afar MDK 2s variety looks promising, but when you get up close and actually play it, you see it's not as good as it could have been.
It's not all doom and gloom, though, there's still a lot to like if you're prepared to play it - once again I'll mention how good Kurt's levels are. And Max does come a close second. You could try to ignore the Doctor, but why would you want to play a game that's only two-thirds good?
Download MDK 2
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features: Single game mode
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2018-10-31 MDK 2 game added.