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     " If I want to put some schmuck's house at the bottom of the river and drown him like a mafia snitch, I think georama should let me. "

      Title: Dark Cloud 2 by Sony

      Format: PS2 Adventure / Roleplaying

      Reviewing Monkey: Our Ape Masters

      The Hype: The sequel to Sony's original dungeon adventure game, Dark Cloud 2 renews the endless search for baddies to fight and magical orbs to gather, which actually contain a city your desperately trying to rebuild. But don't worry if this sounds confusing, my monkey…just get on the little bus and Our Ape Masters will explain it all to you really slow.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Graphics: For it's time (all of a year or so ago) Dark Cloud was a very pretty and visually pleasing experience. It had nice textures, good colors, and a fairly rpg standard rendered style. For Dark Cloud 2, Sony decided to jump on the bandwagon and moved to the now inundated cel-shading method and the results are well and truly fantastic. The animations actually look quite a bit like a standard cartoon, the environments are vast and sweeping, and the textures are really nicely developed. Unfortunately, however, the graphics ultimately end up falling into a category that is less than consistent as, oddly enough, certain elements (given models, objects, etc.) just aren't up to par with the rest of the game. I don't know if there was a last minute rush in production or if some of the stuff was just never polished, but it's weird to be oohing and awwing when suddenly a way under-rendered and roughly animated character marches on screen. Still, it's good for a solid 4 out of 5

      Playability: At it's heart, Dark Cloud 2 is just another dungeon crawling game and has often been called "Sony's answer to Zelda". It uses a lock on system for combat, it has a pleasant mix of melee and projectiles, it has hundreds upon hundreds of caves for you to crawl, and the fighting invariably devolves into patterning (block, wait, attack) and min-maxing weapons. Still, that being said, they have done some really, really cool things to separate Dark Cloud 2 from the pack. For starters all of the dungeons are randomly generated each time you go into them, which means you'll never see the same cave twice (this heavily alleviates boredom). Then there's the ability to play multiple characters who each wield varied and fairly entertaining weapons. From their move on to a number of single-goal mini-games that can serve both as minor plot advancements and as simple time wasters (my favorite being fishing). Finally, there's "georama", the trademark of the game, and the single most feature which gives Dark Cloud 2 it's longevity. Georama, representing the core of Dark Cloud 2's story, is basically a search for city parts as treasure items while you're adventuring. The parts, which range from buildings and people to rivers and scenery, are scattered as items which you pick up as you roam and return to a giant machine which converts them back to their normal buildingy state. Once that's done you can position them on a map and rebuild a city in your image. It's a fun and interesting system that served the first Dark Cloud well and, despite what seems to be more restrictions in building placement with 2, is still a lot of fun to play around with. 4 out of 5

      Story and Drama: Story? You want a story with your game? Isn't it enough that there's hundreds of ever changing dungeons? Isn't it enough that you can build your own city, too? No? Well, I'll make you a deal then. How about instead of a real story we get some weird abstract haphazard adventure involving maniacal clowns and the typical (and, need I say, extremely annoying) reluctant-hero Japanese boy and you let me move on? 3 out of 5

      Multiplayer and Replayability: As you'd expect with a game in this genre, the game lacks a multiplayer mode and replayability is decided replaced by simply lengthening of your first time through to obscene proportions. Still, the addition of ever changing dungeons and a plethora of mini-games keeps you interested long after you'd think you'd given up. 3.75 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       All in all, I think Dark Cloud 2 is my favorite of the current batch of adventure / rpg games. It's got all the standards you're looking for plus a ton of subsidiary entertainment to keep you going. I'd definitely recommend it over all of the competition I've played.

      The Good: Very pretty, lots of variety, evil clowns.

      The Bad: Can be inconsistent and feel repetitive at times, no story, nothing truly original.

      The Overall Ugly: If I want to put some schmuck's house at the bottom of the river and drown him like a mafia snitch, I think georama should let me.

      What it's Worth: Market

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