One has to wonder how Ann Arbor’s student game makers
could come up with enough campus-related material to create a
sequel to last year’s “Crisis Wolverine: Insurrection
Green.” Surprisingly, they did, and the result, “Crisis
Wolverine 2: Shadows of the Past” is yet another reason to
procrastinate during finals week. Both games can be downloaded at
crisiswolverine.com.

The main link between the newest installment and
“Insurrection Green” is Johnny Foreshadow, the
mysterious robot whose mug can be seen on the many flyers that The
Association of Michigan Game Makers have posted around campus. Once
on the side of good, Foreshadow now orients himself with the evils
of Michigan State, who yet again seem to be plotting to invade Ann
Arbor.

Little mention is made of the events of “Insurrection
Green,” at least initially. The plot is actually split
between the modern-day adventures of antiheroes Alex and Neil and
flashbacks to the epic battles of Engineer John Lazar and his crew,
who apparently defended Ann Arbor from yet another attack in the
1970s. The latter group scattered a number of blue books around
campus, leaving behind valuable information for Alex, Neil and
their gang. The split works quite well, allowing the two to develop
the plot while the group provides most of the action.

Though the game looks and plays like a dated Super Nintendo
role-playing game, the developers surely know their way around game
design. Unlike the first installment, which was hindered by
unchallenging, repetitive gameplay, “Shadows of the
Past” is full of ideas that keep things fresh. For example,
in one situation players must stealthily sneak past a horde of
Michigan State grunts in a tribute to “Metal Gear
Solid.” In another, players must move their character around
the screen to confront a number of invaders, triggering turn-based
RPG fighting. If any of the invaders reach their destination, the
mission has failed. It’s refreshing to have ways to lose the
game other than through the death of all team members, and
it’s a sign that the developers were conscious about
gameplay.

The fighting engine is improved, adding much-needed balance that
was not seen in the previous installment. Some characters are
definitely suited for fighting, while others are weak and reliant
on how their spells can assist the others. A time element has also
been added, forcing the player to act quickly in order to minimize
damage. The only problem arises from overkill; treading through
enemy territory invokes a number of unnecessary battles.
Substituting these fights for more climactic battles would have
made the game less repetitive.

The only real disappointment with “Shadows of the
Past” is in the humor department, which was pushed to the
background in favor of tighter gameplay. The campus gags are fewer
and further between, and the interaction between the characters is
simply not as entertaining as in the original. Still, it’s
enjoyable enough to make players want to talk to the various people
that walk the streets. In the end, “Crisis Wolverine 2:
Shadows of the Past” is focused more heavily on creating a
fun, Super Nintendo-style RPG. It’s just as good as last
year’s title, but for very different reasons.

 

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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