[MAGFest 12] Barkley 2 slams with the best, doesn’t jam with the rest

Originally published on Pixelitis.net on January 15, 2014.

Within the first couple of seconds of playing Barkley 2, one can already tell that the game is leaps and bounds over its predecessor in several departments.

The days of ripped sprites straight out of RPG Maker 2000 for PC and X-Kalibur 2097 for SNES are over. While some may bemoan the lack of that stupendous remix of the Space Jam theme or the over-the-top boss music “borrowed” from Blue Dragon, indie developer Tales of Game’s is determined to make Barkley 2 the game they had always wanted to make. And given that this was a project funded by Kickstarter, that means doing away with anything that could prove legally troublesome.

In case you’re reading this and scratching your head, Barkley 2, or The Magical Realms of Tír na nÓg: Escape from Necron 7 – Revenge of Cuchulainn: The Official Game of the Movie – Chapter 2 of the Hoopz Barkley SaGa is the long-awaited sequel to 2008’s Barkley’s Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden. The 2008 iteration is a free game that satirizes the RPG genre with an outrageous post-apocalyptic story where basketball is outlawed and Charles Barkley is the sole wielder of the Chaos Dunk that caused the world’s descent into darkness.

Thankfully, Barkley 2 looks to continue the previous entry’s penchant for witty, humorous dialogue while also altering and improving upon much, much more.

The pre-alpha build I got to check out at Tales of Game’s makeshift Indie Showcase booth at MAGFest had me take control of Barkley 2 protagonist X114JAM9, an amnesiac basketball youngster who may or may not be Charles Barkley’s son Hoopz from the previous game. I was given free reign to explore the post-apocalyptic town I was in with plenty of NPCs to talk to and an underground dungeon dubbed the “Sewers of Tír na nÓg” to fight enemies in.

The first thing you’ll notice is just how polished the game’s spritework is. The sprite designs are skillfully crafted and feature strikingly fluid animation. This, coupled with the fact that every NPC you talk to has a distinct personality adds a certain charm to the game’s world. From the dwarf urinating at the corner of a building to the gas mask-wearing broken gun dealer, everyone has some sort of interesting quirk to them or a peculiar sidequest to give out (booty-shaking rhythm dance sequences, anyone?). And though it’s a minor detail, I liked how the music would automatically transition as you set foot in different sections of the city.

The game’s weapon system, which is inspired by the likes of Borderlands 2 and Shin Megami Tensei, features randomly-generated gun drops that somehow carry names even more eclectic than what you’ll find in the former. As I roamed the tight corridors of the sewers, I switched between several different gun types, including the “Mystical Nanotube Machine Pistol” and the “ADHD Arkane Steel Rifle of the Cosmic Bonus.” While zaubers (the game’s equivalent to skills and spells) weren’t present in this build, Tales of Game’s is promising a robust system in that regard, with lots of stat and class optimization.

The Super Mario RPG-esque timed button presses and turn-based combat of Barkley Gaiden have been replaced with a more action-oriented system. You’ll be utilizing your mouse or analog stick to aim your gun in eight directions, firing upon enemies in real-time. One can also roll to dodge enemy attacks, although there’s a brief moment of pause at the end of a roll that can leave you susceptible to attacks.

The developer’s love of WRPGs and challenging titles like Dark Souls is apparent here. Mutated creatures and evil gun-toting dwarves swarmed me constantly within the Sewers of Tír na nÓg, and I got overwhelmed more times than I could count. I don’t expect the final build of the game to feature an entry-level dungeon that’s this difficult, but I did get a sense of the type of toughness we can expect to see in later parts of the game.

While the game is getting closer to completion, the team doesn’t have a specific date just yet, although it’s shooting for the end of this year. Barkley 2 is an incredibly ambitious endeavor for this indie crew and if the pre-alpha build looks this promising, then it looks like we may have a hit on our hands, Clispaeth be praised.