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Space Quest II: Chapter II - Vohaul's Revenge (DOS)

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Written by  :  Cor 13 (172994)
Written on  :  Aug 30, 2003
Platform  :  DOS
Rating  :  4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars4 Stars

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Summary

Suspense and adventuring in a concise form

The Good

Following the footsteps of its seminal predecessor, Space Quest II borrows its template for a linear, yet dynamic and energy-loaded adventure. It multiplies the hazards and increases the danger, resulting in an interesting example of an adventure game that comes very close to conveying the emotional tension of an action title.

The gameplay of Space Quest II is fluent, uncomplicated, and just right in terms of difficulty and pacing. Some of the puzzles in the game are, in fact, quite imaginative and elegant. They mostly serve as elementary protections against death. For example, you enter a swamp and get eaten by a monster; so you have to figure out how to avoid this. Some puzzles still belong to the good old epoch of text input, and would be hard to recreate in games with modern interfaces. Such puzzles are simple, but not always obvious to figure out, and require real imagination instead of mad clicking on everything you see. I remember how I was constantly dying while attempting to dive and didn't think of a simple solution: what people usually do just before they dive?.. Such realistic, extremely simple, yet interesting and even (in their own way) challenging puzzles ceased to exist after text interface was replaced by point-and-click.

Space Quest II is built like one big trip through a hostile environment, sustaining the feeling of danger from the beginning to the end. There's little in games that can be compared to the feeling of being lost and trapped among hostile creatures and other hazards. There's hardly anything that stimulates the player more to keep playing. Every time Roger dies you are interested to discover what could have prevented his death and what other terrible encounters will happen. The nerve-tickling, tension-loaded atmosphere of the game curiously reminded me of a later masterpiece that is not exactly dissimilar to it.

Yes, you die too much in this game, but this creates tension that contributes to the realism of being unwelcome in a strange, alien world. In fact, dying is the whole point of the game, which is about surviving. And what could have suited the game's plot and setting better than the constant mortal risk? The whole story of the game deals with Roger's attempts to escape from Vohaul and his henchmen. He is in an unknown, possibly dangerous world, where death lurks at every corner. I find it fascinating how the game always requires you to be careful, using this to immerse you into its world.

All this makes Space Quest II the most intense, atmospheric experience within the series. When you are always near death, you start paying attention to everything - every stone, every tree might contain possible danger. You walk around carefully, trying not to step on suspiciously looking plants or come too close to dangerously looking bizarre alien organisms. The game has two main locations (planet surface and Vohaul's asteroid), both very detailed, both full of traps and hazards, and both menacing in a strange, alien way, perfectly fitting the sci-fi setting of the game.

The Bad

Space Quest II can be an exciting game, but it doesn't feel like an exciting Space Quest. The first game wasn't exactly a hilarious comedy, but it did have Ulence Flats. This is just the kind of thing missing in the sequel: a nice little area with funny establishments and creatures. Otherwise, the game is very similar in structure to its predecessor (up to the division into planet-exploring and enemy base-infiltrating parts), but it lacks the one relaxing, humorous segment needed to make up for all those dangers.

This is manifested in the gameplay as well: there are no friendly areas in the game, no "civilized" locations at all; it's either hostile wilderness or equally hostile enemy base. Even the latter is underpopulated compared to the Sarien dreadnought of the first title. Though the Labion-exploring part is reasonably large, it occupies more than half of the game; the somewhat underwhelming asteroid section follows right away, concluding the game. Space Quest II is actually smaller and shorter than the first episode, which is not a good thing to say about sequels.

You also die a bit too much here, and much of the gameplay is based on dying. When you perish, you usually receive messages such as: "You are beaten again to a bloody pulp. Will you never learn? Come on, other people are looking at you and seeing what a bad player you are". I know it was supposed to be funny, and it really was the first couple of times, but since you die so many times in this game and receive similar messages every time you do that, it can get on your nerves.

The Bottom Line

Space Quest II is certainly not as charming and humorous as the other games in the series; combined with short length, this makes it the generally least beloved installment of the floor-mopping, planet-hopping tale. That said, its suspense, atmosphere, interesting puzzles, and a genuine feeling of adventuring do a good job compensating for its flaws.