Once a low-grade heavy metal musician destined for nowhere-ville, Bob Marshall is now a full-time Quantumnaut (guardian of time and space continuity) and Space Captain, married to the love of his life Neena from the planet Pyr. If you missed the first instalment of Midian Design's Quantumnauts series, you'll probably want to start at the beginning of Bob's most improbable journey, though the new episode stands largely on its own with a whole new storyline. This time around, we discover that Bob has made a powerful enemy within the Quantumnaut command, Colonel Fen'Herh (Commanding Officer of the Orbital Station and head of the Secret Service), who also desires Neena's affections and will stop at nothing to make sure Bob is out of the picture. Having dealt with Colonel Fen'Herh's advances, Neena warns her husband to be careful when he's summoned for an emergency mission alone on the edge of the Multiverse. It turns out she was right to be suspicious, as the exact co-ordinates Bob receives lead straight to a monstrously big black hole.
Fortunately for Bob, his onboard computer saves him from instant death, but his ship is caught in the gravitational pull, forcing him to take emergency measures to escape, leaving the vessel damaged and drained of energy. The computer guides Bob to the nearby planet of Tir, upon which he attempts to make a safe landing. In the process, his ship is attacked by a giant worm (think Frank Herbert's Dune here) and is quickly taken out of action. There Bob is discovered by Primo, the commanding robot of the city of Muttra, and another robot named Eugene, who decide to rescue him and bring him back to the city. Primo proves to be something of a tyrannical leader, however, intent on reinforcing his control by forcibly introducing Bob as one of the gods of the robot population (humanoids originally created the robots) and a returning savior of the planet. Taking this role will guarantee Bob's survival and a few perks along the way, but only on the condition that he doesn't speak to anyone about who he really is or try to leave. Naturally, this doesn't sit well with our hero and he begins his quest to escape, make allies and find his way home.
Like the first game, Quantumnauts 2 is a parody of sorts that plays upon various science fiction elements to stitch together the fabric of its universe. There are multiple references to Star Wars, Star Trek, 2001 and Stargate, along with H.P. Lovecraft and any number of other sci-fi works that could be inserted into the background. The game unashamedly borrows wherever it can in an effort to provide humorous reference points, such as Bob reprogramming a couple of R2 droids to play in his band. However, whilst the inclusion of such elements is fun, ultimately they don't impact the story much and are mostly just there for background amusement.
When compared with the first episode's production values, the sequel is light years ahead. For starters, the visuals look great and perform fluidly throughout. Once again Midian Design have gone with pre-rendered 3D characters and backgrounds, but they're much more polished this time, with carefully blended textures and correct lighting. Gone are the sharp edges and harsh contrasts of its predecessor, along with Bob's slightly Neanderthal look, as character limbs and proportions are all in correct proportions this time round. Bob himself looks like he's had a proper makeover and is almost, very nearly good looking now! (As close as he's likely to ever get, anyway).
Some of the standout locations include a cavern with a decommissioned star cruiser left in a state of rust and ruin; a robot city with enough clean lines to have made even Steve Jobs proud, and a series of underground caverns with a subtle H.R. Giger influence. It's a combination of crisp, clean, and stylishly futuristic visuals with dark, rustic, grimy secret passageways and hollowed caverns that elicit a sense of isolation and horror. Some of the robot designs are pretty interesting also; many are rather basic and rudimentary, but others are much more complex constructions, such as a giant spider that's been built with a multitude of servant robot components. It's in creative little touches like these where the visuals really shine.
If there's any graphical criticism to be leveled, it's that there's probably not enough animation in places and there is some occasional jerky movements with one or two of the robot characters. Once you arrive at the main courtyard of the robot city, you'll notice a lot of stationary robots just hanging around, doing nothing. You'd expect the majority of bots to be whirring around, bleeping and generally performing the many tasks they were created to do (after all, they're robots!) but that's not really the case here. And while the lower resolution cutscenes are nicely done, they could be sharpened up a bit or at least rendered at something resembling the game's standard resolution.Continued on the next page...