What's in a name?
When MDK first arrived on the gaming scene, it caused a moderate stir with its crisp graphics, bizzarre mood, wry sense of humor, and unlikely name. There was a lot of speculation about the mysterious title. The people who blame everything evil on video games (P.W.B.E.E.V.G., for short) were claiming that it stood for Murder, Death, Kill. Oh, give me a break. Although Shiny has never officially announced anything, it seems quite likely that MDK stands for Max, Doc & Kurt, the three stars of the show.
MDK 2 is here now, and this triumphant trio return to save the world from aliens once again. The Doc discovers them first from his orbiting spaceship, The Jim Dandy. Quickly he dispatches his janitor, Kurt, to fight the new menace. Fortunately, Kurt has more than a mop and scrub brush to aid him. When he dons the Doc's innovative 'coil suit,' he becomes a virtual super-janitor.
As Kurt, you must run around shooting aliens and jumping from platform to platform. The suit helps in all of these tasks with potent machine guns, a sniper helmet, and a coil chute that allows you to glide very effectively. You should all remember this from the first game.
Unfortunately, some enemies turn out to be much larger than even Kurt's puissant janitorial skills can handle. So Doc sends his dog (good puppy-wuppy!) Max to rescue Kurt. Although he has no coil suit, Max is not a regular dog. He's a cigar-smoking, gruff, robotic dog with six limbs. This allows him to wield up to four guns at a time, giving you serious firepower. Max, however, is also eventually made to sit, stay, heel and beg by the potent alien menace.
Now friendless and without aid, Doc's ship is invaded by the aliens. Doc himself has no coil suit, is not a robot, has only two arms, and no weapons. However, he has SCIENCE. Using a novel method of combining items, you can use Doc to make all sorts of useful tools from common household… err… spaceship items. Build a nuclear toaster, a leaf blower, molotov cocktails, a telescopic ladder, magnetic shoes and plenty of other things that are (in some way or another) alien-defeating.
Also aiding you in your alien-bashing quest is the game's terrific graphics. The framerate is blazing fast and the textures are unbelievably detailed. Use Kurt's 'sniper' mode to zoom in on a distant wall, and you can't fail to be impressed (by the way, it was the first MDK that invented the now-familiar sniper mode). All the characters in the game move smoothly and accurately, and have a great cartoon-ish quality that meshes perfectly with the game's terrific sense of humor.
But even with all these benefits, don't think it will be a cake-walk. MDK2 is long, really long, and hard, really hard. You'll be playing this one for a very long time before you finish it, which is both good and bad.
You have unlimited lives in MDK 2, and it is a strictly linear game with fixed checkpoints. This means that when you get to a hard section, your only choice is to do it over and over again until you get to the next checkpoint. After playing the exact same level for the 30th time, this can get frustrating…really frustrating…pull-out-your-own-hair frustrating.
Another problem is that the difficulty of a particular level isn't always fun. MDK 2 has too much of what I call "Mario Jumping," jumping from platform to platform. Miss once, and you have to restart at the last checkpoint. That sort of gameplay has been dying out for years now for a reason: it's just tedious.
However, despite my picky criticism, the non-frustrating times in MDK 2 are simply tons of fun. The game is genuinely funny, has great voices and a terrific comic book flair. I didn't even mention the different weapons, powerups, and the monotony-busting mini levels where you fly a rocket, pilot a fish, and all sorts of crazy stuff. With tons of action and a really long game, you're guaranteed to get your money's worth. Who knew that being a janitor could be so much fun?