At a Glance:
Warnings: None really, unless you still believe in Santa in which case… oh damn!
Control scheme: [arrow] Keys to move, [shift], [ctrl], [z], and [c] for everything else.
Gifts that turn out to be a pair of socks: More than you’ll ever know
The Set Up:
Christmas has come and gone, and if you’re the type to celebrate such things, you’re probably glad it’s done and over with. No more shopping and dealing with holiday traffic. No more Christmas songs played on permanent loop everywhere you go. And egg nog. Yes, egg nog is nice right until you get to the point where just the thought of it makes your stomach juices curdle.
Still, I submit that if you haven’t experienced Christmas as a highly advanced paramilitary operative with a specialty in stealth tactics, you have yet to experience Christmas at all. In Mr. Podunkian’s (AKA Arthur Lee) nod to the famed Metal Gear Solid franchise, you reprise the role of Solid Snake (now “Cold Snake”) as you descend upon a mall with your trusty partner, Otacon, a simple radio call away. You’re mission? In the finest tradition of Metal Gear games through the ages, that can be a little complicated but we know for sure that it involves the “Ghosts of Christmas Past” and something called “Merry Gear.” Just don’t, uh, you know, quote us on that…
The Low Down:
Lee’s stealth title is one of those rare jewels that succeeds equally well as a form of heavy parody, heartfelt nostalgia, and as its own game, in a way proving the strength of the MGS series as well as giving a generous nod to Podunkian’s own talent.
As a parody/homage, few fans of the Metal Gear Solid series will walk away from Merry Gear Solid 2 unsatisfied. So much of what made the source franchise great is packed in this download with SNES style visuals. You have the well executed stealth gameplay that rests at the game’s core, along with the radar perched in the corner, and the rapid fire in game selection menus that exude that trademark MGS ergonomic sparkle. Of course, the technical is only where the similarities between games begins.
Like virtually every Metal Gear ever made, Merry Gear Solid 2 boasts an exhaustive and overtly complex plot. This is exacerbated by the fact that Podunkian sometimes injects into the Merry Gear story aspects from Metal Gear, sometimes to a dizzying effect. Further, the cast of characters on display sport Metal Gear’s classic level of complexity mixed with melodramatic flare. While most of the enemies you see on screen exhibit Storm Trooper levels of individuality (and intelligence), the bosses and main characters rightly are buoyed by eccentricities and seemingly novels worth of back story.
Oh, and the voice of Snake. WELL DONE! You would seriously think that David Hayter leant his voice to this effort.
All of this would make for an entertaining but hardly impressionable experience, a comical stroll through Metal Gear Solid memory lane. That there is actually a respectable game underlying all of the homage and parody at work here means that this is a game you can really curl up with and get into. The stealth system at work here is brilliantly done, and remains faithful (to a degree) to the Metal Gear formula. Indeed, had there been a Metal Gear made for the Super Nintendo, this would be it.
The basic system comes together with smooth graphics and even smoother overall execution to create gameplay that is silky with few hiccups. Further, there are plenty of mechanisms throughout the game that gently steer you to your final goal, from the growing inventory list to Otacons regular hints and directions. Sure, this creates a rather linear experience, but not so much that you really stop to care.
The control scheme can be a little awkward at first. [Shift], and [ctrl] are you primary keys with [z] and [c] coming in third and fourth respectively, meaning that you’re playing with your pinky tucked in a bit and if you lift your hand for any reason, it’s a crapshoot whether you find the right keys without looking again or not. Unfortunately, as of the time of this writing, you can’t change the controls to suit your needs which should be a standard feature for most action type games these days. But to my delight, I found that you do eventually grow accustomed to the controls and as time goes on they get in less of the way.
My only other complaint here is that sometimes the game can wade out a little too deep, going a tad overboard with what one presumes is sarcastic convolution.
But don’t let minor flaws deter you. Merry Gear Solid 2 is very well polished and exceptionally well delivered. From aesthetics to gameplay, this one is a winner all around, and would be quite at home among the Metal Gear series that served as its inspiration.