better, in case you couldn't guess.
Several weeks ago -- at the time of this writing -- I had reviewed the freeware game Soda Junky. Even though it shared a lot of characteristics that could be found on a lot of eight bit platform NES or Game Boy games, it still could have been commercially released for those kinds of consoles, due to it having a few dozen levels and being a familiar platform/shooter/puzzle program that can be found on a lot of similar-themed games. It also felt fresh, for some reason (pardon the pun, since who knows how many soft drink companies have sold their product in ads saying how "refreshing" their drink is) -- even with it's typical platform play of jumping, shooting, and having power-ups and all -- possibly due to unbalanced level design, it's original bosses, and throwing in one long-scrolling level near the very end for good measure to change the look and feel of the game as well.
Unfortunately, Soda Junky 2 just goes down like your typical movie sequel as far as not being as good as the original, even though it looks better and all.
As far as the familiar stuff goes, the graphics for your character, Sammy Bottlecap (don't blame me for the name), and most of the enemies, look exactly the same as on the original Soda Junky. You get pretty much the same power-ups as you clear the levels of bad guys by throwing empty soda bottles at them (apparently there's no litter laws there in Fantasy Video Game Land), level bosses, passwords, and you get several dozen levels again on this sequel.
As far as the new stuff goes, though, there's actually a cinematic intro to the game this time around. Granted, the graphics are pretty awful -- even *I* can draw people better than THIS guy! -- but it's a neat touch. Some of the graphics look a bit better this time around (aside from certain ones that went unchanged), as backgrounds were added, although you could still see some outlines around some of the objects in the background in the early levels (what the hell program was used for this?!). One power-up that was pretty useless in the first game (that dropped explosive charge thingies once you grabbed it [that almost never hit anything!]) was just made into extra points for this sequel. Rather than having to wait for several seconds for the next level to start, levels load a lot quicker this time around, and there were some neat effects added as well, like point values fading into thin air after they were revealed. There's also a new enemy in a snowman that spews out bad guys until you destroy him. Frosty the Snowman got pretty miffed here.
Unfortunately, on the flip side, there were hidden bonuses in the original, but here they're hard to find. Some of the bosses are also pretty tough; one of the earliest ones involves going through an invisible maze before you actually encounter the boss. Even though I applaud the game's creator for trying to be original, it was pretty frustrating and difficult to get through, among others.
And then on the neutral side, the bonus diamond grab screens were omitted from the original, but then, they were all pretty much the same, so that didn't matter to me much, plus the design of several levels from the original also made it on here.
Unfortunately, also like the original, which was a bit unbalanced in it's level design, not necessarily getting harder as you went along, I thought it suited the game just fine, but here it seems pretty wrong, as there's some VERY unforgiving levels in the 30s that are insanely, unforgivingly hard, then you breeze through several in a row, like one where the screen scrolls through the width of several screens placed side by side, yet there's only four enemies to pick off on the entire level. Seriously, you can not die on that screen, even if you fall asleep while playing! However, some of the other levels were SUCH a pain in the ass that I quit playing this game for several days, unlike how I was so addicted to the first one that I pretty much played it until I beat it within a few days; not so here.
It's difficult to say how to approach these games as well: if you should go through the first one first, or get the more difficult sequel out of the way first before tackling the original game, since it's more fun (note: at most places where this game can be downloaded on the net when you do a search, you'll get both games per one download), but then that might sour your taste for the original (and the original doesn't have the [few] improvements the second one does). So lets just say to try Soda Junky 2 at your own risk. After all, there was a hint at the end that there could be a Soda Junky 3 at some point (due to a boss coming back at the end that you encountered earlier in the game), but both games have a copyright date of 2002, so where's 3 at?
Poor Sammy Bottlecap has seen better days. 6/10