Don't make me laugh.
Every geek dreams of designing a game. Heck, most hardcore gamers think they can make better games than the developers themselves. For the shot at making a game, we'd readily sacrifice a few fingers, give up our secret stash of Mountain Dew, or even knock over some old ladies
Why, there's an idea for a game right there! A game where you can knock over old ladies! Hmmm...or maybe you can choose to either help those ladies cross the street or you can simply push them to the curb! Or how about pretend to help them, but then just push them for kicks! I can tell you right now, Old Lady Pusher 2003 will be the best...game...ever.
Oh well, I can dream...and so can you, especially if you have Agetec's new Fighter Maker 2. However, you'll probably be dreaming of a better game, because even though this stinker doesn't have any old ladies, it's painfully geriatric.
Before I go any further, I need to stress something - you aren't really designing a fighting game here. What you get is a barebones fighting game and the ability to write profiles and create characters, selecting from small pools of hairstyles, faces, outfits and accessories. Then you map out some custom moves through a muddled and needlessly complex interface.
At Fighter Maker 2's heart is a single-player game that can't stand on it own two feet. There isn't a story or a set up of any kind. You simply fight with a scant handful of generic and forgettable characters with absolutely zero strategy. I mashed my way through and it worked just fine. There's only one punch, one kick, and one grab.
This leads me to the big question: why would I want to design a fighting game that I don't even want to play? There's no payoff after dumping your time into this game. Even if you spend hours creating some insanely powerful super fighter who can throw with the greatest of ease and nimbly run circles around your opponent, good luck in trying to find someone to play this game with you.
Besides, the character customization doesn't even compete with the breadth of options found in most wrestling games. There isn't even a height and width adjustment a la Phantasy Star Online. At least in comparison to the original PSX Fighter Maker, you can manipulate color palettes, but sadly, I won't be able to create a battalion of old ladies for my second gaming vision, Geezer Fighter.
Only 6 new custom characters can be saved per PS2 memory card, but there is also the option to import motion data from the original Fighter Maker. Perfect for both of you who still own that gem.
Especially problematic while creating your custom character is the lack of decent camera. This could have easily been mapped to the right analog stick, but instead you have to wade through some clumsy defaults or create custom views that are plain ornery to adjust. There's a 4-way split screen that shows four different views at once in an attempt to mirror professional CG programs, but objects end up looking too small.
Fighter Maker 2's graphics do not look much better than the original. While the image is clear, the environments and characters are brutally simplistic with severely dated animation. And in a scary reminder of The Crow, character collision is laughably bad.
Sound effects languish in utterly generic bloops and bleeps, and the music does no better with standard rock beats.
A word of caution especially aimed at parents: just because the game boasts the chance to "become a legendary fighting game designer," this does not mean Fighter Maker 2 is educational. Far from it. While there are design qualities in here that may pique kids' interests, the game is too dated and limited to sustain play for any length of time.
If you really want to push your kids to down the road of game programming and design, encourage them into the mod scene or start from square one by getting them Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs for Christmas. This small, nerdly purple book is the first step to understanding computer programming. And frankly, any kid will be happier with a weighty MIT textbook that they won't immediately understand than this deadweight of a fighting design game that no one will ever understand.