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‘Rage 2’ – Stickmen have never looked so angry.
As a once established fan, or at very least one-time non-denier (I’ve seen some things man, and some stuff; I wouldn’t recommend it) of Stick Figure Death Theatre, I’ve seen more than any respectable person’s fair share of stick-violence in what is arguably one of the most specific genres of animation known to man and geek alike. Having recently returned to Stick Figure Death Theatre, I discovered that what used to be a fairly-reputable site had deteriorated over time into the category of barely-reputable. I concluded that simply watching the madness just isn’t fun anymore, if indeed it ever was in the first place. This prompted me to search for a more interactive alternative; cue the oddly specific genre of moderate-tempo overly-happy German techno music and enter ‘Rage 2’.
As one of the few games I’ve played that consists entirely of roughly-draw stickmen rapidly indulging in violent congress, ‘Rage 2’ is somewhat of a learning curve for me. I initially had trouble adjusting to the ridiculously fast pace and uncertain positioning of the characters when attacking. The latter adjustment initially made the game quite frustrating to play since it isn’t entirely obvious at first whether you are successfully giving a round pasting to your enemy, or whether they’ve successfully gained the upper hand and have in fact taken your actual hand as a trophy. The aurally challenging music only seems to compound the problem and would likely induce confusion in the first-time player.
These are small problems however and they are all but overshadowed when you begin to unlock the various weapons available to you. Your character has the ability to be equipped with a gun, meelee weapon (initially a cane but swords can be unlocked) and grenades. The further you venture into the game, the more guns you unlock, it’s as simple as that. My curiosity about the full range of guns swiftly began to overshadow my reservations about the gameplay. I played on.
I found that the full range of guns is fairly extensive; to give you an idea of the hefty arsenal in question, I shall list them for your convenience: We have the pistol, the creatively-named bigger pistol, shotguns, a green pistol that also shoots green, ray guns, twin-shooters, a grenade launcher, a rocket launcher (we all know a shoot-em-up just isn’t complete without the ability to launch deadly and incendiary weapons of war at your enemies). It would have been nice to see more differentiation between the relative effects of the smaller weapons, but this is also a small issue that plagues what is otherwise a very decent piece of entertainment
Your melee weapon is also something which you have the ability to upgrade as you progress. I began to get a little tired of the basic cane and was thrilled to be able to get a promotion to the level of rusty sword, shiny sword and eventually the devastating and busily-animated device which looks to be a poor-man’s lightsaber. These weapons allow you to deal with your enemies more effectively as they are more frequently encountered and higher in number as you advance through adventure mode. Don’t forget to use your grenade as well; these are particularly handy for dealing with a cluster of enemies that just won’t seem to give you a break.
Health is measured with a standard bar-gauge which depletes as you are attacked. When facing multiple enemies, your health deteriorates at a rate more rapid than it is possible to handle without biting the dust, so make like a boxer avoiding brain damage and avoid being cornered. Our stickman also has a rage meter which builds over time; once it reaches a certain threshold you violently burst into flames and can use your special move which sees you spontaneously combust and explode but without all the trouble of dying as a result. You will often find some handy rage and health power-ups along the way, with health usually being dropped generously by your erstwhile enemies.
‘Rage 2’ appears to cater exclusively to people who enjoy their games thin, simply drawn and haphazardly animated. This is not an attack at the game however since the basic style and animation is how this game is meant to be presented. It certainly makes the game unique in its appearance and will appeal even more strongly to those who have played most shoot-em-ups, beat-em-ups in the past. Having both ‘arcade’ and ‘adventure modes certainly helps with the game’s shelf life; the former mode being a survival battle where enemies materialise from nowhere and the latter mode taking you through four generic and nameless realms of incrementally extreme quantities of enemy and extremes of colour.
I can’t claim to have done anything less than enjoy my time playing this game, with my delight actually increasing as I moved onto the next deadly weapon and indulged in its use. Maybe it’s my past enjoyment of Stick Figure Death Theater talking, but more likely is the fact that this game has more to offer than I initially gave it credit for. After all, there aren’t many games out there where the action is so fast paced, relatively simple to control while maintaining all the characteristics of a longer game. I felt compelled to continue playing through adventure mode, and arcade mode ensured more short-term gratification of any underlying sadistic tendency which may remain. I’ll have to admit it; stickman-based violence can be as brutal as the real (flash-based) thing.