"The first level is pretty good, a promising start for the game. The heroes run through a restaurant in an effort to diffuse a bomb someone has set in the building. It's not a match for the first stage in the first game, but it's good, a promising start. Unfortunately, things never really get any better."
In case you somehow haven't played Chip 'N Dale: Rescue Rangers for the NES (the first one, not this one), might I suggest that you bang your head against a wall repeatedly until someone fetches you a copy? It was good stuff, a romp through imaginative, ingeniously designed stages. Players could skip some areas, too, as they mapped out a route to the final set of stages where Fat Cat waited. There were only a few choices, and you could select all the stages if you wanted, or just choose your favorites with one or two 'yawn' areas thrown in. From telephone poles to forests to gardens and kitchens to toy factories, the game provided not only a variety of playgrounds for the two rodent detectives, but also some really cool powerups and even a few puzzles. Very little of that is true of the sequel, though, and it's here that Chip 'N Dale: Rescue Rangers 2 fumbles and almost falls.
See, the developers decided a number of things that only make sense if you realize that both publishers and developers are in the industry at least partially so they can get their paychecks and feed their kids. No doubt the success of the first game meant they knew a sequel was a good idea, but they obviously weren't willing to invest quite the time in it. The biggest sign of this is the number of stages: 9. I'd have to check to be sure, but I believe the original had somewhere around 12.
But wait, there's more! Not only are the stages less in number, but they're also marred by a lack of artistic effort on the part of those who crafted them. The first level is pretty good, a promising start for the game. The heroes run through a restaurant in an effort to diffuse a bomb someone has set in the building. It's not a match for the first stage in the first game, but it's good, a promising start. Unfortunately, things never really get any better. The majority of levels are just the same, industrial and devoid of much variety. You feel like you're in a factory half the time, suitable considering this game frequently feels like it was just one more Disney title cranked out of the admittedly high-quality factory that is Capcom. It's just heartbreaking to see it happen here, with a game that could have been so much more. Where are the forests and toy factories, the gardens, the library? About the only things that return are the factories and sewers. I know that return locales wouldn't have been good, but did they really use up everything good the first time around? With the exception of the mine carts and the refrigerator, I'd have to say so.
And it's not just the levels that suffer, but also the occupants. It feels quite frequently like there are only about eight different enemies you fight, bosses excluded. None of them are all that exciting. There are gophers, monsters that infuriatingly hide in crates (a repeat from the first game), some bees, and a few others. Then you move onto the next level, and there's a decent chance you'll see them again! It might be excusable in a game with more levels, but not here.
Of course, more often than you might like, there are no enemies at all. These stages are devoid of a lot of life. Perhaps that's what makes it all feel so sterile. One of the later stages in particular is a complete cakewalk, with hardly a foe in sight. Collecting those 50 stars will be a breeze.
Ah, yes, the stars. At least this much is an innovation. Each level has somewhere over 50 stars, probably in the neighborhood of around 70. When you reach the end of the area, your collection of them is tallied. If you've passed 50 (something that's not all that difficult if you give it even a fragment of effort), you get a token. Get three tokens and you get a fourth heart for your life meter. Get five and your gauge increases again. Get any more than that and you're wasting your time. Ah, well...it was good as far as it went.
Another bright spot, perhaps I should say the brightest spot in this game, is the collection of bosses you'll fight. Although the final boss is an extremely simplistic foe without half the artistic value of Fat Cat in the first game (though it's hard to imagine topping that battle), most of the rest of your foes are pretty cool. My favorite is a card-tossing villain that will keep you running and trying to figure out why you're not finding more openings, until you catch onto the secret. The first boss is cool, too, water currents and all. Your opponents here might not always be a lot of fun to fight, but at least the design is clever. You feel pretty good when you beat them, and there's one at the end of every area except one.
The bonus stages between each level are also worth considering. Get good at them, and this game will be even more of a snap than normal. You get ten seconds to win a prize. Your chipmunk of choice appears at the bottom of the screen, near a ball. Toss the ball upward to try and knock your prize from the floating carpets. You only get one toss, and the best prizes are practically blurs on the screen while you move more slowly than an episode of Dragonball Z. You'll soon find getting what you want is a matter of anticipating when the prize will appear and tossing the ball accordingly. It may not be thrilling, but the rewards you can win make it worth your time.
Without a transition at all, I shall now move to a discussion of graphics. Again, it's a matter of lazy design. Scampering through the stages, I remember the back of the box advertising secret hidden areas you could unearth. I saw my crate flickering and thought for sure I'd found it. Nope, just the crappy system limitations coupled with Capcom's apathy toward the visual department. And it happens whenever there are a few moving things on the screen. The first game in the series flickered, too, but that was usually because a lot was happening. Here, almost any opponent you face is going to cause a visual disturbance. It's disappointing. Both Capcom and the NES were capable of better than this.
Also disappointing is the game's ending. When I first beat the final boss, I was waiting for the next level. The characters were going through their typical cutscenes, the usual dull music was droning, and I figured for sure there was a final encounter just around the bend. Then, quite suddenly, I was looking at a black screen that said 'The End' and the characters were all posing. It was a true disappointment.
Quite clearly, then, the only reason to play this game is for the ride. By now, you must be wondering how I could complain so much yet give the game what some might consider a generous score. Well, it's because even though this game doesn't live up to what the first accomplished, it does a good enough job as a follow-up that it's still more fun to play than quite a few other titles on the system. Definitely worth your time if you enjoyed the first. If you've played neither, though, go for the first one instead. It's a lot cheaper, and you might actually be able to find it at your local game store.
Staff review by Jason Venter (August 04, 2003)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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