MANHUNTER 2: SAN FRANCISCO / Sierra / PC


Manhunter 2 re-uses the same game engine and structure as the prequel; in spite of your character totally exploding the Orb operations in New York at the end of the last outing, the plot contrives to have you step into the shoes of a deceased Manhunter in San Francisco and take up his daily investigations as a cover for learning how to bring down the Orbs in the city by the bay.



Some improvement has been made on the "Big 3" problems of the previous game - the annoying mazes are totally gone, and the puzzles are much less abstract and there aren't any that leave you completely clueless to guess at meanings. There's a lot more arcade sequences, but there's also an adjustable difficulty setting, and the easiest setting makes most of them a cakewalk. There's one arcade-maze towards the end of the game that resembles the really annoying "Donkey Kong Jr." sequence in the first game, and the game ends off with another irritating arcade-maze with janky control, but both of these are mitigated by the fact that you can save at any time in the middle of them.



The downturn to this is that the game is even shorter than the previous, and can basically be breezed through in less than two hours. The one bit of unfair trickiness it throws at you is that there are a couple of incidences where you actually are forced to get killed to progress the game; not such a major setback given that the game still respawns you to the previous screen after each death, but having the good sense to not stick your face in a dark sewer pipe can work against you when you are struggling about at the end of the game day trying to figure out what the hell you missed.



The art and music are about the same, but the mystery element of the plot is a little more intriguing here; there's a group of Chinese ninja (lol 1980s Western understanding of Asian cultures) actively working underground to resist the Orbs who are much larger and more efficient than the seemingly three-man Undergound in New York, and there's also a group of rat-dog-humanoid hybrid mutants whom the Orbs have disowned and who vary in their loyalties (but all seem to agree on the point that humans are a delicious snack.) Some of it is pretty outlandish, but it does add a sort of pulpy edge to the game that differentiates it from the fairly bland environs in NYC.



Ultimately the game works better than the prequel did - provided you have a moderate tolerance for arcade sequences in your adventure gaming - but still hits a few points of frustration and simply peters out after way too short a time. There's enough to like in both this and the prequel to make it a bit of a shame that the final entry of the trilogy never materialized; with a little time to iron out the kinks and some better technology it might very well have been Snatcher-esque in stature.





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