An Acquired Taste
After the release of the first game, many fans enjoyed it but also found some critical flaws with the game. For instance, many found the difficulty too easy or too hard at parts, without the ability to adjust it. Others found it too short, others felt it needed more puzzles, and still others found that there should've been more flash animations/cutscenes.
With a few months now to try and resolve these issues, Hothead Games releases the second installment of the supposedly 4 part series, and continues the quest for the main protagonist to get his home back, and also help Gabe and Tycho avail against the ubiquitous Fruit Fuckers (juicers that have a metal "prong"). Players who have a completed save file for Episode 1 can transfer that character onto Episode 2, although starting a new character is functionally the same, as you are allowed to change the name and appearance anyway. The main difference is you unlock a support character using an item that you would've only gotten in Episode 1.
The normal mode has 3 difficulties, gentle, regular and difficult, and you are offered a choice at the beginning of your adventure. In gentle difficulty, enemies have less hp and are easier to block, and the amount of enemy hp goes up with the difficulty, and the timing of blocks becomes less obvious. After completion of the game, a new Insane Mode is unlocked, which makes enemies tougher, gives them more hp, and removes blocking cues altogether. The game is essentially divided into 2 activities that you'll be doing throughout, one is fighting and the other is puzzle solving.
The combat system is mostly borrowed from the first game, and involves a lot of timing, for special attacks against the enemies, and for blocking enemy attacks. Some minor changes have been made, such as a "hit" number that increases your attack damage as you land more consecutive hits on your enemy without being hit yourself, and also buff and debuff items last the entire round, rather than about 3 turns as it was with the first game. Whether or not you transfer your file from the first episode, your character, and also your enemies, will be beefier, with more health, and hitting for more damage as a continuation of the first game.
The questing and puzzle solving in the game is fairly easy and self explanatory. Most of the quests involve completing a certain objective in order to get an item required in another quest, and so on. The puzzles are fairly easy, and none really required any extra effort at all. Although it was touted that there would be more puzzles, and more difficult, I felt it was just the opposite.
Graphically, the game is much like the first. Although the setting is a 1920's New Arcadia, it was still rather depressing to find that the color palette pretty much consisted of purple, brown, yellow and gray. It is understandable due to the setting, but I don't think that excuses the developers from using more color in some aspects of the game. Otherwise, the models and textures are fairly detailed and sharp, and most things have some sort of annotation when you click them which is nice.
The music is unfortunately a disappointment, essentially no work was done on it at all. I'm ready to say that the majority of the music is recycled from the first game, and there weren't that many tracks to begin with. There are perhaps 2 new tracks in this installment, and on the whole, none of the tracks from either the first or second episodes are memorable at all. If anything, they probably border more on terrible than anything remotely good.
In terms of the flaws mentioned earlier, I felt that the game did little to mitigate them and only marginally improved from the first episode. On the difficulty, I found it extremely easy, even more easy than the first episode. Even on Insane difficulty, you are likely to finish the game without even any of your characters dying once. The main problem is due to the combat system, which always gives your characters priority. As long as one character can do one thing, it's always your turn. That means, each character can attack, and while they do, the other characters attack bars recharge, so by the time the last person has finished their attack animation, you are ready to repeat again. This is seriously flawed because even on insane difficulty I beat the last boss without him even getting an attack in, simply by abusing the system. The developers also mentioned that its length increased, however they neglected to mention that it was not by any substantial amount, I found myself beating it in about 1 hour more than it took me to beat the first episode. On the up side, there were indeed more cutscenes, and they were of pretty good quality.
One of the selling points of the game is its humor, which readers of Penny Arcade will quickly recognize. However, instead of using this to their advantage, I found them exploiting it a bit too much. Literally every sentence that they say is worded like a punchline, and italics are used freely to emphasize as such. Sarcasm and hyperbole are funny, but not when someone continually communicates like that and tries to make it really obvious which parts are supposed to be funny or clever. Thus I felt that even their brand of humor was flawed, even more so than in episode 1.
In conclusion, this is a rather midline game that caters to a specific audience, and is fairly flawed in some areas. This game is strictly for Penny Arcade fans, so if you enjoyed the first then you'll probably like this one as well, especially at a reduced price of 14.95, currently available on PlayGreenhouse for PC, Mac and Linux.