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Another example of sequels proving stronger than originals, January 21, 2010
I'm happy to report that Phantom of the Arcade 2 is a dramatic improvement over its predecessor in a number of ways. The writing, although not grammatically perfect, is much stronger and evokes the atmosphere well. The puzzles are still quite simple, but they require a little more thought than in the previous instalment.
The intro to POTA2 drew me in suddenly. It was enjoyable and clever and, as a matter of fact, made me laugh. The player finds himself in the backstage of a theatre, looking for costumes to use for a Halloween party. Something unexpected occurs and the next thing he knows, he is in an abandoned amusement park. He must collect a list of items to make his way back out.
The plot is simple, but what more could one expect? The intent of the game is fulfilled well--it's a fun, spooky romp. Tongue is placed firmly in cheek here, and stays that way--another improvement over the original. This game uses the convention of room descriptions that tell some of the story the first time they are entered, often requiring a second "look" to get the basic description. While this may not always be the wisest approach to IF design, it works well here. This method was only responsible for two flaws that accidently revealed minor plot elements before they had happened, but they weren't crucial. On the downside, there were many unimplemented nouns in the room descriptions which made the game seem a little unfinished. When examining scenery, I would rather see "you see nothing special about the [item]" than "you can't see any such thing"--especially when it is staring me in the face!
There is one NPC, largely unimplemented, but for some reason I didn't mind. The way she is used works well. It is possible to finish the game successfully, but with two different outcomes. What those outcomes are, I'll keep secret, but if you find that you haven't finished to your satisfaction, there may be something else you can do.
There is also one interesting bug at the very very end, which lets you rack up an unlimited score. But the game is over by then, so it doesn't impact on the story.
On the whole, I enjoyed this spook-fest considerably more than its predecessor. Don't expect any purple prose in this one: it is light fare to be sure, but if you like spooky, haunted settings, as do I, this one might be worth a try.