Crispy Gamer

Games for Lunch: MDK

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Developer: Shiny

Publisher: Playmates Interactive

Release Date: May 31, 1997

System: PC (reviewed)

ESRB Rating: T

0:00 I've wanted to pick this critically acclaimed PC game for years, and the recent nomination for the Crispy Adventurers Club seems like the perfect excuse.

0:01 A pure ebony, muscular body with a pyramidal head runs in from off-screen and leaps on top of the MDK logo, sprawling across the top. Weeeeeeird.

0:02 I perform a "settings test" in the option menu and am amazed to see my computer rendering smooth animated 3-D curves. MY computer! The last time I saw 3-D this smooth on my computer was ... never, actually. I should play late-'90s games more often. Anyhoo, New Game.

0:03 "!!!Newsflash!!! A huge City Minecrawler is headed straight for the coastal town of Laguna Beach, USA." I'd ask what a "City Minecrawler" is, but that'd just be silly.

0:04 The game seems to have crashed when I got an instant message. I don't know whether to blame the game or AOL. Either way, I didn't lose much.

0:05 Back in action. Just like that I'm falling through the air. On-screen instructions say "avoid the radar." I'm guessing that's the green laser thing that's sending the missiles with long yellow tails from the ship below me?

MDK

0:07 Grumble ... the default controls map movement to the arrow keys, not WASD as I'd prefer. I hit escape to change it up, but apparently I have to quit the game first to get to the menu. That's OK, I haven't done much of anything yet.

0:08 I finally land in a dimly lit corridor. Getting my bearings, figuring out the controls. When I move the mouse forward and backward, my character moves forward and backward, rather than looking around as I expect. I'm not sure if this is annoying or cool, but I'm leaning toward the former.

0:11 Running through a long red corridor, I eventually run into some large, extremely blocky apes with body armor. I circle around them quite easily, dodging their large red lasers and picking them off quickly. The graphics are functional but show their age pretty badly.

0:12 In the corner of the room, I pick up a "World's Smallest Nuclear Explosion" item. And here I thought Fallout 3 was being so original. Anyway, I use the tiny nuke to break a nuke-shaped seal on the door out of here.

0:14 Sniper training ... I have to shoot some target being held by far-off monkeys. Now there's a sentence I never thought I'd have to type. The mouse-based zoom and aim controls are incredibly satisfying.

0:15 "Use parachute to get mortar," the game tells me. Gladly ... but I don't know which key activates my chute. Again, escape only brings up a "quit" option. Isn't there a control-editing option that DOESN"T require quitting?

0:16 Playing around with the function keys, I find F2 saves the game. That's good ... now I can quit to check the controls. While I'm at it, I fix the mouse-movement problems, which were causing a horrible stutter-step.

0:20 Turns out a right-click makes me jump and activates a large parachute for floating. I've got the mortar now, but it doesn't show up in my item wheel and I don't know how to select it. Umm...

0:23 Ah, it seems the mortar is only available in sniper mode. But now the mortars are bouncing off the red glass that I'm supposed to be breaking, instead of blowing it up. This game is just a never-ending stream of frustrations so far!

0:26 I finally luck a mortar into place, then encounter more monkeys with targets. Said monkeys are blocking my way on some stair-like platforms. I take out the first set easily with grenade missiles, but they're replaced quickly by a second set that seem invulnerable to my remaining bullets. There's a "Decoy" around, but he doesn't help. Frustration!

0:28 OK, so they're not invulnerable, they just take a lot of sniper shots to bring down. It doesn't matter ... they get replaced almost immediately by a seemingly endless supply of new monkeys as soon as I kill them. I am so confused.

MDK

0:30 Oh man... Apparently they're coming from a little monkey generator on the floor that I can out with a quick stream of bullets. It took me WAY longer than it should to realize that. That said, the game didn't exactly make it apparent...

0:34 I run into an open-field battle with a bunch on monkeys. Oh, and there's a tank that seems to shoot monkeys. That's right, a MONKEY-SHOOTING TANK. I take it out with some mortars that happen to be lying around, then circle around to take out the monkey stragglers. It's incredibly fast paced and surprisingly fun and cathartic. Of course, the catharsis ends when the game freezes after I take out the last monkey. Really, computer? You're freezing on 12-year-old games now? Sigh.

0:39 It had been a while since I saved, so I just finished the open field again. Autosaving in modern games has spoiled me, I guess. Anyway, this time around the Decoy worked wonders. Even without it, though, I'm amazed how easy it is to just dash around this carnage, dodging most of the shrapnel flying around, and keeping out of reach of the enemies. Sure I get hit a few times, but mostly I'm mowing stuff down. Satisfying!

0:40 Down a hole into a long corridor with red track lighting. Blocky or not, the graphics are pretty atmospheric. The amazing, driving soundtrack doesn't hurt either. It just makes me want to shoot stuff! RAWR!

0:43 At the end of the corridor, another tank busts through the wall with, you guessed it, more monkeys! After I defeat it with some grenades, I backtrack to take out even more monkeys I dashed past in the corridor. I didn't have to, but what can I say ... it's just fun!

0:46 Another open-field monkey battle (that would be a good name for a rock band). This one introduces planes that rain slow, explosive destruction down from above. Easy enough to dodge, but I have trouble aiming up at them with the sniper rifle. Then I realize my normal gun can hit them even without aiming upward ... the game auto-aims vertically, like the original DOOM. Nice!

0:47 I wish this third-person camera would zoom out and up just a tad. As it is, my little guy is constantly blocking my view of whatever I'm aiming at.

0:49 One of the plane hangars opened at some point. I head on in and find the World's Smallest Nuke I need to get out of here.

0:55 Another situation where bouncing mortars are required to blow up some tinted glass. I'm about to throw my keyboard at something when I notice some air vents up above the glass. Firing the mortars in there drops them right into the faces of the screeching monkeys, clearing a path rather quickly. Sweeeeeeet.

MDK

0:59 I see a whole mess of tanks just briefly before falling down a large cylindrical shaft. At the bottom, I use the parachute to ride an airstream back up to a spiraling series of translucent platforms around the edge of the inside of the cylinder. The next three minutes are spent jumping and floating and shooting and just having a blast, thanks very much.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Yes.


Why? Once I figured out HOW to play, I had a great time just running around and shooting stuff. Pitch-perfect, ball-to-the-wall action here...

This column is based on a downloadable version of the game provided by GOG.com.

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