ECSTATICA 2 / Psygnosis / PC
Trapped in a corner and gang raped, pretty standard Ecstatica 2 procedure

Oh Jesus Ecstatica, can't you do *anything* right? The sequel does try to correct some of the egregious problems of the first game, but it does so in a totally sloppy and halfassed manner, and the end result really isn't any better.

OK, first issue - the game apparently tries to auto-detect your soundcard rather than letting you manually configure it. If it fails - which is apparently common even with standard cards like Adlib and Soundblaster Pro - oh well, too bad for you, you just get no sound and music.

Next issue - high-res mode, which is on by default, doesn't work in DOSBox. I know, you can't really hold this against the designers. But, given the sloppy programming evident in the first game, I have a feeling it's their laziness/incompetence that causes this to be an issue more than DOSBox's limitations. Anyway, you have to play in low-res mode on any kind of a modern computer, is the end result.

The graphical resolution has been upped and the color count increased, but the sprites still insist on using that goofy ellipsoid/ball style. It has the same effect as the first game of leaving you scratching your head wondering if all the over-the-top gore is supposed to be taken seriously or is just for comedy value.

The story seems to totally forget about the female heroine from the first game, you're stuck with the male hero as he apparently escorts Ecstatica back to her castle. Unfortunately her castle seems to have been totally ravaged and strewn with corpses. As you reach the gate, demons swoop down, kidnap Ecstatica and pwn the hero in the head. He wakes up in the stocks, but some mysterious power opens the lock for him and frees him. Unfortunately, there's two Groader Goblins right nearby, who give you zero time to figure out the new control scheme before they are all over your ass like white on rice pounding the shit out of you. And no, running isn't an option - that just steers you into the minefield of other constantly respawning enemies, who outnumber the enemy count of the first game by a good 5x at least. Hell, I think the opening area in this one has more monsters in it than the whole of the first game combined!

The gameplay style has really changed from being kind of slow, clunky, methodical, and all about sneaking and hiding, to zippy and all about constant combat with enemies that often just sort of spawn and rush you from completely nowhere. The faster speed and fluidity are nice (you no longer have total "tank controls" and can actually change course while running now), but the epic shit tons of enemies that constantly spawn all over the place basically just ruin it. As far as I can see you are no longer stalked by some uber-powerful monster, but the endless waves of speedy weaker monsters really more than make up for his presence.

The key layout is better in this one - arrow keys to move, hold CTRL plus arrows for various attacks, space bar to pick stuff up - but the supposed joypad support didn't manifest itself except for one button that toggled my health bar on and off. Oh yeah, there's a health bar and inventory in this one - one small improvement. Unfortunately there's no native support for remapping the keys, though you can do it with DOSBox's CTRL-F1 feature, which I had to do to map everything to the gamepad to make the game halfway playable without giving me arthritis.

The long and short of this game is that a bunch of its features don't actually work, and you'll likely have to end up playing a crippled version of it. Which isn't even worth it since it's just as big a masochistic exercise as the previous game was. Granted some of the broken feature issues may have to do with DOSBox emulation, but since the designers weren't forward-thinking enough to make the game innately compatible with modern PCs, DOSBox is really about the only option TO play it. And like 95% of other PC games work fine in DOSBox, so I really don't know what this bizarre French game's excuse is other than crappity programming.

Links :

* Demo download

Videos :

* Gameplay Video

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