The original Quantum Gate: The Saga Begins... is based on an unique design concept called VirtualCinema pioneered by HyperBole Studios. VirtualCinema takes full advantage of the multimedia capability of the computer to provide a platform for interactive storytelling. Like its predecessor, The Vortex: Quantum Gate II bills itself not as an adventure game but as an interactive movie experience. Despite substantial improvements in the quality of both storytelling and production, this interactive game will still leave the player puzzled as to why such a sequel is made in the first place.
In this game, you assume the role of Drew Griffin, a young soldier recruited to fight a war against an anthropomorphic alien race on a distant world. The year is 2057. Due to severe environmental pollution, Earth has only five years to live. Only a rare mineral exists on the planet AJ3905 can reverse this environmental Armageddon. At the end of the original Quantum Gate, you and your comrades are transported through an interplanetary device called the Quantum Gate to destroy the alien inhabitants in order to excavate the needed minerals. Through your Virtual Reality tophat display, they appear in the form of alien bugs. When your tophat suddenly malfunctions, however, you discover that you have been tricked by your commanding officer Colonel Saunders to destroy a seemingly peaceful race known as the Aylinde instead.
Initially, you accept with reluctance help from the Aylinde people who have saved your life. While recovering from your injury, you explore their culture and philosophy of life. The familiar faces of these tribes people liken to the faces back on Earth trigger many emotional flashbacks of Drew's life back home. Although you may have uncovered the evil scheme of Earth's Eden Initiative, you also realize the Aylinde people have their own hidden agenda against humankind. Your trust is finally put to the test when you must choose which side to help. Even when you think you have made the correct choice, you soon realize life as you know it may just be a horrible nightmare (or fantasy) from which you should have never awaken in the first place.
The Vortex: Quantum Gate II is played entirely from a first person perspective. Various icons appear intermittently during playback of Full Motion Videos that convey the story throughout the game. By clicking on these icons, it allows the player to make inquires, guide Drew's actions, or display emotions. The emotion can be anger, balance, or sorrow. Some icons trigger supplemental videos to simulate various moments of flashbacks by Drew. Responses differ depending on the player's choices. A cursor is used to help the player to navigate through space by showing the available choices of directions. The game is played out in chapters, with a short epilogue preceding each chapter. There are multiple pathways in this game and nearly a dozen endings, though most endings are no more than quick death scenes.
The story of The Vortex: Quantum Gate II is written by Greg Roach who is also the writer of the first game in the series. Roach has been credited in creating the first interactive multimedia novel, The Madness of Roland, in the early 1990s which has earned Roach the moniker, "the Steven Spielberg of interactivity". This unique use of icons to trigger various interactive elements has subsequently been adopted by other adventure game titles. There can be no compliant to the cinematic quality of the animations. They are simply breathtaking to look at. Photorealistic 16-bit graphics provide an immersing environment that can be explored in detail. The acting in the game is very professional. The story is engaging and has an unexpected ending. Both highbrow and lowbrow humors are used. For example, when Drew makes a fatal choice, the game cuts away to a shot of the production staffs arguing with each other on how stupid this particular ending has been, or even funnier, to a shot with the player being disguised in front of his computer for losing the game so early. Even the winning end sequences are played along in similar lines. These multiple endings offer some replay value, since the entire collection of videos that cannot be viewed from only a single play of the game.
On the other hand, exactly what prompted HyperBole Studios to make this sequel has certainly eluded me. Its poor sale is a clear reflection of the fact that adventure gamers really hunger for good brainteasers and not just eye candy. There is not a single puzzle in this game! The sole object of this interactive title is to click on the screen to see the next movie clip. At times, there are just too many icons for the player to click. In order to view all the clips, the player must play the game over many times. Most players will not have the patience to sit through the many repetitive segments just to watch a few new segments. Most videos are played in small screens and are quite pixelated. Lip synchronization is also a problem at times.
Even with the breathtaking graphics and a decent story, this VirtualCinema title amounts to nothing more than eye candy with minimal interactivity, similar to its predecessor. Certain plot twists may be difficult to grasp without first playing the original Quantum Gate. Unlike the original game, there is currently no novel adaptation of this sequel. The excessive use of foul languages in the game is unnecessary, and the humorous twists at the end of the game may not find its audience. In the end, The Vortex: Quantum Gate II is simply an uninspired sequel in a forgettable adventure game series.
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