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CONSOLE: PC DEVELOPER: Coktel Vision PUBLISHER: Sierra Entertainment
RELEASE DATE (NA): 1994 GENRE: Adventure
// review by SoyBomb

The Empire Strikes Bleh

I remember, back in my more youthful days, when we bought our second home computer. Don't get me wrong: the first one was indeed notable. (I learned much about gaming by playing excessive amounts of Gorillas through QBasic on that computer.) The second computer, however, opened up a new world with its nifty Windows 95 operating system and, perhaps more interesting for the sake of this review, its CD-ROM drive. Yes, with the advent of the compact disc came greater possibilities for PC gaming! Or, so you'd think. While CDs definitely made developers able to create more attractive and more complex games, they didn't always do that. Anyway, when we bought that computer, it was packaged with ten discs, each with its own unique software. There were strange things like Microsoft's Dangerous Creatures, a multimedia package containing video bytes from a variety of 1990s comedians, and something called "The Magic Death: Virtual Murder 2". I have no idea. But among that selection of truly exhilarating drudgery was a game called "Inca II". It was different.

I haven't played the first Inca game, but I don't imagine there's much catching up necessary to understand the plot of Inca II. Try to follow me on this one, though, because it's lame. You start out as Atahualpa, son of the great El Dorado, an Incan warrior and member of the Incan council. After clearing a trial (either of strength or of wisdom, depending on which you prefer), you are invited to join the council of the elders. Obviously, he's too immature for such a high position, as he insults a guest expert and is unkindly kicked out. Feeling enraged, he steals a tumi (what they call their flying space battle ships) and ends up starting a war with Lord Aguirre before getting blown to bits by one of his subordinates in space. The story shifts and puts El Dorado in the protagonist's chair and he must stop this war. Also, there's an asteroid that Aguirre's going to use to take over the world. Not sure how that's going to work, exactly, but El Dorado has to get rid of the asteroid as well. I also can't quite explain the timeframe of the game. It's set "500 years in the future", but does that mean that the Incan Empire is to be revived down the road? If this is true, Inca II does note that humans will continue to have terrible fashion sense in 500 years, though the Incans themselves will not have evolved beyond the garb of their ancient Machu Picchu roots.

Atahualpa is the reckless son of the Incan empire chief. He also sounds like a New Yorker!

One might consider Inca II to actually be two different games in one. It is, in part, an adventure game where you need to examine your surroundings in order to solve puzzles. It is also a first-person space (or, occasionally, train) shooter at times. The game hops back and forth between the two styles of gameplay, although the point-and-click adventuring takes top priority. Unfortunately, the puzzles featured within those adventures are so simple, consulting a walkthrough would be an insult to your brain. They all involve grabbing a few items just laying around and applying them to other parts of the scenery. Your mind shall not be taxed. The space segments are where the real energy lies; using a variety of weapons at your disposal (missiles, atomic blasts -- you know, the usual), you'll have to take down vessels of Lord Aguirre's army in space, all while they are trying to do the same to you. The radar in the console is very handy for keeping track of where all the enemies are in relation to your position, and you can target enemies this time (er, sort of -- I'd much prefer an autolock system). Luckily, you have infinite continues, so screwing up only means you have to try again. You'll need them because the space segments are nonsensically difficult, most likely due to simply being a lousy, ill-devised space shooter with the odds NOT in your favour. Inca II offers you passwords every once in a while, but you never need them because when you "load" a game, you can choose any part of the game you've already played as a restart point. How arbitrary.

I played this game in the mid-1990s, but I did NOT remember it for its gameplay. I remember it for its mediocre presentation. Inca II packs in a fair amount of voice acting, and most of it is beyond awful. (Inca II was also released on a stack of ten floppy disks, where players were spared this humiliating display of vocal cord warbling.) Atahualpa sounds like a sarcastic New York hot dog salesperson and El Dorado puts a furied emphasis on pretty much everything he says. There are many other characters who speak, and they're all cringeworthy. Stranger still: the characters are actually digitized versions of real actors, but when they speak, only a moving mouth and chin are imposed on the otherwise static visage. The mouth movements don't even match what the character is saying, so it just looks silly in practice. There is full-motion video sometimes, and it looks pretty good for its time, but I wish they had put a similar effort into the remaining visuals.

Inca II may try to be serious, but it falls flat on its face in this respect. Goofy voices, a nonsensical plot that moves forward faster than a dog chasing a Buick, and adventure puzzles that couldn't stump an actual tree stump all combine to form something special, something unconventional, something... let's say, ridiculously executed. Play this only for its unintended humour value. Otherwise, there's really no need to hop on the time travel wagon to revisit this speck of dust in the universe. It's a shame that an entire ancient culture had to be exploited just so I could get personal enjoyment out of employing vodka as spaceship fuel.

(Interestingly enough, though developed in France by Coktel Vision, Inca II was picked up for publishing in North America by Sierra On-Line, the fine folks who also delivered such great hits as the King's Quest, Leisure Suit Larry, and Phantasmagoria series on PC. But we'll forgive 'em. After all, everyone makes mistakes.)

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