William and Sly 2
It has stopped raining. The clouds are parting and with the sun brightening the world of Lucas Paakh's mushroom-munching, dauntless red fox, you'd think those vexatious gnomes would give it a rest and take in some sunshine. Instead, they have stolen and torn up William's journal, scattering the pages high and low. William, who is too busy working on his tan to be bothered, sends his vulpine friend, Sly, to gather the pages together. This is where your adventure starts in William and Sly 2, a stunningly gorgeous sequel to the original William and Sly from 2009.
Those cagey gnomes have blocked up many of Sly's caves, so no longer does he go blindly spelunking for treasures. Yet, it turns out, gnomes cast sloppy dissolution spells so the blockages crumble at the slightest touch revealing... treasure, which in this case refers to mushrooms (Huzzah!) Explore this surreal landscape of towering sequoias, intricately carved cliffs and mysterious caverns by using the [WASD] or [arrow] keys. You begin with a map already in your possession, which you can access by tapping [shift]; this feature comes in handy as you navigate the byzantine panorama and might even prove useful to your crusade strategy.
While searching for journal pages, you'll encounter enigmatic shrines where you can meditate to uncover side quests for new abilities, one of which is essential for completion of the game. These campaigns add significantly to the fun and require thoughtful problem-solving to complete. Happily, the fairy flies from the first game remain useful for these matters. Bring up the journal pages via the [B] key to read backstory hinting at how the little fox came to live with William, why he was dubbed Sly, and other narrative touches that round out the story.
Analysis: If you thought the first William and Sly was a feast for the eyes, fill your sights on the imaginative production values of the sequel. In both, you'll experience a fantasy realm of breathtaking scenery and rich environmental effects, a place where exploration and curiosity are rewarded with new surprises and abilities. As a result of using Blender to multilayer the sprites, the landscape has undergone a 3D-like transformation and the rich details of the first incarnation have multiplied triple-fold. Just as soothing and meditative as before, the music, also by Lucas Paakh, takes on deeper tones and a richer sound. Bird song has replaced the thunder and lightening; there is a post-storm calm and serenity in this world.
Another noticeable change (an improvement in my book) is in the ease of play. With the absence of darklings from the first title, traveling about is stress free, allowing for full enjoyment of the non-linear gameplay, and you won't find a boss battle either. If you can empathize with Sly's compulsive obsession with mushrooms, the joy of fungi accumulation persists here. On the other hand, if you expect more for your platform gaming skills, you might be initially disappointed by the near effortlessness of play, although the focus on exploration and discovery is aptly utilized amongst these superb graphics. Outside of the platforming aspect, the William and Sly games fall neatly into Azurefish's category: interactive art with puzzles and gaming thrown in.
Once again, the greatest complaint about William and Sly 2 is that it ends too soon. Yet there is certainly replay value, if for no other reason, to simply indulge yourself in a whimsical dream world of exploratory sumptuousness. Yes, that's a mouthful and a fitting description of this eyeful!