INCA II from Coktel/Sierra

Reviewed by Carl Muckenhoupt

          Computer        Graphics        Memory          Disk Space
Minimum   386/25           VGA             4 MB              13 MB

Control:  Mouse required, joystick optional
  Sound:  SoundBlaster, AdLib, Pro Audio, CD audio
  Notes:  CD version reviewed.  Uses CD audio for music.

Reviewed version 1.07 on: 486DX2/66, 8 MB, SoundBlaster Pro, SVGA, single-
speed CD-ROM drive

Inca 2 is a weird little game. Well, okay, anything that takes up 13 MB of disk space isn't really little. But it feels like a weird little game. It has some very nice bits, and if it were consistently like those bits, it would be a great game. But no, it is doomed to be a weird little game.

The plot takes up several years after INCA 1, in which Eldorado (the hero) established a new Inca Empire in space, despite the efforts of a pirate/ conquistador named Aguirre. Aguirre is still around, and plots to destroy the empire, using a mysterious asteroid that jams interplanetary communications. The pseudo-mystical stuff that made up the bulk of Inca 1 is still present, especially towards the ending, but this time around it is dominated by the faux-Star Wars elements, particularly when a Han Solo clone named Kelt Cartier joins your side.

Like its predecessor, Inca 2 is a hybrid of WING COMMANDER-style space combat and point-and-click adventure, proceeding in mostly-linear fashion from scene to scene. It mercifully leaves out the mazes of the original, and adds a third element just as significant to the whole as the combat and the puzzles: extensive cut scenes.

Let's look at the cut scenes first, since Coktel seems to be proud of them. Some of them are actually quite impressive. I don't know how much of the graphics made it into the floppy version, but the CD had some extremely smooth scenes of spaceships gliding past one another and through canyons and the like, with the camera swooping gracefully to follow them. Some of these scenes are shown over and over and over.

Unfortunately, other cut scenes are not so slick and glossy, especially the ones that simply pan across a still picture, like a really low-budget animated cartoon. Others show digitized photographs of people standing stock still against an incongruous background. Their mouths move, but out of time with their voices. And about the voices, the less said the better. They are nothing less than embarassing to hear. I'm not certain, but I suspect that Atahualpa, Eldorado's hotheaded son, was played by the same person as Blount in Goblins Quest 3, a role for which he is much more suited. You can stop the voices by pressing 'esc', but there is no way to turn them off or get text output instead.

The combat scenes are good, but nothing we haven't seen before. You have a first-person view, several types of missile to choose from, steering with joystick or mouse, etc. The radar screen is confusing at first - up is actually forward - but other than that, it's a breeze. Control is smooth and responsive, but gets increasingly rough and jerky as your ship takes damage. Some particularly difficult battles are optional, but winning them makes later scenes easier. One annoying point: sometimes combat will be interrupted to show a cut scene.

Puzzle sequences are very pretty and pleasingly surreal, focusing on machines and other objects left behind to test you. They're quite enjoyable, in fact. The only thing they're missing is puzzles. Your range of actions is limited enough that you don't really have to think. All you can do is click on things with an item from your inventory, or click on things without an item from your inventory. Thus, a potentially clever puzzle, like cracking a glass case by pouring water into it and letting it freeze, is spoiled by the fact that it's all you can do. Wrong actions almost always bring an uninformative generic error message.

But, well, the graphics are pretty. As with the cut scenes, the style varies wildly. Some scenes will have 3-D rendered animation as you walk from room to room. Some will have morphing bitmaps, as mystical energies take shape before your eyes. Others will have video-captured actors that don't quite fit in with the background, or still bitmaps that look like they were made using a paint program.

Music is played from the CD in most scenes except space combat. Style, as with everything else, varies. Vaguely Peruvian woodwinds give way to synth-pop or pompous faux-John Williams. I actually lked the vaguely Peruvian woodwinds. Unfortunately, since speech is read from the CD, the music stops every time someone talks.

So, should you buy it? Like all of Coktel's games, it's cheap, and it won't be long until it hits the bargain bins. You might want to give it a try oce it does. If you're contemplating getting the CD version, try to listen to the speech first. It's really the worst thing about the game, and if it doesn't bother you, you'll probably be able to enjoy everything else.

This review is Copyright (C) 1994 by Carl Muckenhoupt for GameBytes Magazine. All rights reserved.