Sunday, August 03, 2008

Platform Racing 2

If you've read my review of Platform Racing (here), it probably won't surprise you to learn that I was somewhat dreading playing Platform Racing 2. Fortunately, the good news is that Platform Racing 2 has improved dramatically on its predecessor. I still wouldn't call it a great game, but at least playing it doesn't make me feel like a total idiot who's wasting his time.

The basic concept of Platform Racing 2 hasn't changed much from the original -- it's like a platformer, and you have multiple characters racing to the end. So what makes it better? Well, first, there's more building blocks in the toolkit (is that a mixed metaphor? I'm afraid it is). In addition to the basic blocks, there's ice blocks, blocks that can be pushed, blocks that disappear after a little while, water blocks, and even blocks that rotate the entire playfield 90 degrees, which can make for some very confusing levels. (This is used to very interesting effect in some levels -- for instance, there's one level in which two players rotate left and two rotate right, so that one pair ends up on the top and the other pair ends up on the bottom.) The levels also look much less drab -- in addition to the new blocks, which help to add splashes of color, there's also nicer backgrounds, which makes looking at them much more enjoyable. The music is also vastly improved, courtesy of the Newgrounds music portal. Also, more items have been added (most of which don't add very much, but the more variety is always welcome), and you can customize your character a bit more.

The real improvement that makes Platform Racing 2 vastly more enjoyable, though, is in the level design. Remember how I said how important level design is in a game like this? If you're not convinced of that fact, just compare these two games. Wisely, Jiggmin selected many levels not designed by him for Platform Racing 2, and this substantially improves the game -- the levels now have interesting features, and cute touches, and other sorts of challenges than just "jump from this one block to this other block". It is perhaps no coincidence that the last level, which is designed by Jiggmin, is by far the worst, most frustrating, and least enjoyable level -- it is clearly designed to be hard, but it isn't hard in a fun way; it's just mindlessly hard. There's also a thriving community of player-submitted levels, though I tried checking a few of the top-rated ones out and was not terribly impressed; I would expect that there are some good ones lurking, but I wasn't able to find any.

The multiplayer is pretty much the same -- the flaws of the matchmaking system are still present. There are a couple of improvements, though; you don't have to wait for everyone else to finish before receiving your points and leaving, and (much to my relief) the ability to jump on other people's heads and stun them is now gone. The silly system where you have to gain rank before you can play the rest of the available levels is still present, alas. Winning races gains you body parts which you can use to customize your appearance, which is a nice touch; races with more people tend to bring you the best stuff. Cheating also appears to be much less of a problem, which I am grateful for.

Overall, the game has improved enough that it's moderately fun to play. The basic concept, to be honest, is still a little lacking, but at least the level design is interesting enough to make this a game that's worth playing again.

No comments: