Saturday, 25 March 2017

INNOCENT UNTIL CAUGHT 2: GUILTY


The crude grifter Jack T. Ladd returns for another space adventure. This time he's Guilty! Released in 1995, this sequel to Divide By Zero's Innocent Until Caught adds an unwitting companion by the name of Ysanne Andropath: Space Cop. Does this extra playable character add to the experience, or just Jack's innate sexism?

The first Innocent Until Caught was a fun, if inconsistent adventure, with some nice character dialogue to keep things interesting. With Guilty, almost everything about the original has been retained, yet not much has been improved. The screen layout, graphics, writing - all incredibly similar save for minor tweaks. At the time, this was cause for heavy criticism. The lack of the 'Super' in the VGA graphics meant that it lagged behind contemporary adventures such as Full Throttle, Dark Seed II or Chronomaster. Hewever, while it may have been behind the curve in 1995, in 2017 it's pleasingly retro.

From a gameplay standpoint, the big change is the inclusion of a second playable character. While the overall plot and locations remain the same, puzzles, items and motivations are very different. For example, Jack starts out having to escape the on-board jail cell on Ysanne's spaceship, then subsequently sabotaging the hyperdrive. On the other hand, Ysanne’s tale starts at this very moment so she instead heads straight for the nearest planet to refuel.

The story is quicker to get going this time round. While the first game spends half its time attempting to dodge taxes before the galaxy in peril plotline kicks in, here it's presented almost immediately. While Jack is running around the ship playing saboteur, in Ysanne's storyline she's receiving a warning signal from the nearby planet of Lixa. The ice planet is home to a research station which you find abandoned and destroyed. The vigilant officer gets right to investigating the cause, while giving Jack the supposedly simple task of finding fuel. It turns out an inter-dimensional alien species has arrived hell-bent on destruction, and Ysanne takes it upon herself to save the galaxy.

Jack pays little attention to this in his storyline. His main motivation is a more hedonistic, self-serving one. The first few planets the two encounter tasks him with finding something to fix the ship while Ysanne does something badass (like save a battling army troop), but he'll also gamble and hit on female robots on a casino planet. With this in mind, it's best to play as Ysanne on your fist playthrough. You won't learn too much about the overarching plot as Jack, especially as the two storylines play as separate games rather than a single adventure a la Day of the Tentacle (they each have their own set of save game slots too).

Jack's plotline is also overstuffed with the game's greatest flaw: pixel-hunting. Both suffer from this but for Jack, it's over-apparent right from the off. The first puzzle - escaping the cell - requires you to play with the light switch three times. This light switch is a single pixel next to the cell door. It took me far too long finding it, then realising it has to be pressed multiple times before it short circuits. It's not as overly difficult as the first game (there's little moon logic here), but when it comes to pixel-hunts it's one of the worst out there. Every time I resorted to a walkthrough, it was because I missed a tiny item. The first game attempted to get around this issue with the 'eye' icon. That was not a perfect solution, but at least it was an attempt at one.

Our heroes each have their own well defined personalities. However, whether it's the recent inclusion of voice acting, the presence of Ms Andropath or perhaps a change in writers (officially there wasn’t), Jack's cheeky barbs come off as a little sexist. In fact, the conflict between the two derives mostly from this. Jack, for example, is astounded that he was caught by a woman and often comments on her 'driving' skills. Ysanne will often have great comebacks, but will still spout lines about how men are untrustworthy and break everything. I guess they're going for fun banter (think Romancing the Stone), but it just comes off as mean spirited.

Casual sexism is certainly present throughout the game, however I wouldn't say Guilty itself is guilty of this. For starters, Ysanne has taken over lead character duties from Jack. She's very much the one who has agency in the story, with Jack as a hanger on. Secondly, for every sexist term thrown between the two protagonists, there's a retort - either by action or in dialogue - that counteracts the argument. Ysanne does indeed catch the roguish criminal single-handedly, has a strong will and an unwavering sense of right and wrong. That 'women drivers' comment is made moot by the fact that Ysanne is driving a tank to save some troops in a warzone. Jack himself remains useful with a wrench and spanner, strives to fix the bad situations he often causes and - for the second time - stands up where it counts to help save the galaxy. I was not offended by any of these sly comments and there's little here that will trigger the PC Brigade. The game's far too simplistic for that. In fact, it was its use as a lazy shorthand for character development that I didn't like. What with the current political climate and social debate putting a spotlight on this theme, I may not have noticed it otherwise.

Nevertheless, I still enjoyed my time with this imperfect game. Each plotline was very short, being about 2 hours each if you know what you're doing, and the plot was a lot more involving than what came before. The characters - for all their flaws - were again the highlight, being much more entertaining than the story despite the over-used and tired stereotypes. It's another game to add to your underrated hidden gems list.


To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses DOSBox to bring the game to modern systems. Tested on Windows 10.

File Size: 87 Mb.  Install Size: 249 Mb.  Need help? Consult the Collection Chamber FAQ

Download


10

Innocent Until Caught 2: Guilty is © Divide By Zero / Psygnosis
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me


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