Thursday, September 3, 2009

Download 2

NEC Avenue

The Download series was full of surprises for me. Having long held the belief that DL2 would be right up my alley, I was a little disappointed when I had to "settle" for playing its predecessor first. Talk about serendipity: the HuCard blew me away with its incredible background graphics and challenging action. Then, of course, I was even more excited about the prospect of playing the sequel, even though my cautious cousin Zigfriedeltinov had administered a grave warning:

"Download 2 is the anti-Download!"

When I finally got the chance to try the followup, I found that... well...

Things are indeed different in 2. Its backdrops are sometimes drab but often very pretty (or at least interesting), but at no point are they as impressive as the effect-heavy marvel-lands in the first game. Selectable ship speed has been jettisoned; icon grabbing is now required if you have aspirations of outpacing a sloth. You have access to your craft's full range of weaponry right from the very beginning, which isn't really a terrible thing, but the fun to be had experimenting with different gun-and-auxiliary-item combinations in the previous episode is absent here, as is the emphasis on strategy. You'll still need to do some thinking, but you'll be using your noggin for mundane matters such as memorizing the safest paths through dull block gauntlets. And the enemy cast disappoints: for every cool ice dragon, there are dozens of small, silly miscreants.

The bosses received better treatment than did their minions. While there are some gateway-guarding duds to be encountered, the creepier demons and stouter behemoths make up for their meek mates.

You'll enjoy a rockin' tune during fights with those bosses; but, unfortunately, that's the only exciting number to be heard in the game. NEC Avenue had good intentions with the DL2 soundtrack, placing a welcome emphasis on catchy riffs that are supported by occasional lead work, but while most of the material is decent, none of it is special; and there's a lot of crappy PSG to be endured during the intermissions. Although the cinemas receive no help from the accompanying audio, they do somehow manage to merge goofiness with stylishness effectively enough to remain interesting (except for when particular scenes are repeated unnecessarily). The character designs found here are a little lame compared to those featured in the first episode, however.

Download 2's pretty backgrounds and cool bosses make it worth a shooter fan's while, but it falls far short of excellence; and its failure to live up to its heritage made it a letdown for me.

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