Bionic Heart 2 Review

Title: Bionic Heart 2
Release date: 2013-04-14
Developer: Winter Wolves
Publisher: Winter Wolves

"Bionic Heart" was not a good game, however the second installment fixes some of the complaints I had with the first game. It doesn't mean that "Bionic Heart 2" is not a mess, but at the very least it's a mess one can enjoy.

As we remember, the preceding game had a whooping 24 endings. "Bionic Heart 2" thankfully doesn't continue from the best ending, which was a horrible deus ex machina trainwreck, but builds on to one of the normal ones. In that particular ending our "heroes" Luke, Tom and Helen escaped to Mars, while Tanya stayed on Earth in order to bring down the evil Nanotech Corporation. It's a good premise and it initially works quite well, toing and froing the action betwixt Earth and Mars.
Luke manages to notice the most important thing about the new environment.
Luke and co. left the Earth in order to escape the clutches of Richard Meyer IV, but Mars is not a promised land it was supposed to be and might be even more dangerous than Earth. Meyer looks like puppy compared to some of the people inhabiting the Red Planet and our heroes once again find themselves embroiled in life threatening intrigues and conspiracies.

The first thing that is apparent from playing BH2, it's that the writing is miles above that of its prequel. Gone is a horrible soapy opera masquerading as a thriller; instead we are presented with an actual interesting story of mystery and science-fiction. That's not surprising, though. BH was written by Riva Celso, while Götz T. Heinrich - one of the best known writers in the OELVN community - was hired for the sequel. The writer also introduces numerous retcons that actually improve the story of "Bionic Heart 2". The new story culls some of the more ridiculous plot elements from the canon. "Bionic Heart" told us that the secret Mars base was built by Mr. Meyer, thus making Luke's decision to escape to Mars in order to avoid Meyer's attention seems ridiculous to the extreme. The second game changes that to Meyer having absolutely no involvement with the Mars base and having no power there. Additionally, Tanya Vanic's identity lights up all the alarms like a Christmas Tree, once it is entered into the police database in the first game; in the sequel cops have no idea who she is. Both of these changes in addition to many smaller ones work for the better.
Julia pulls a Jesus and is not a psychic anymore (thankfully).
Sadly, while the first story impression was sufficiently positive, ultimately I think that this was Mr. Heinrich's weakest work yet. At first it seems that the switcheroo between various perspectives is working very well, however, the farther one reads, the more fragmented and disjointed story becomes; the same problem was present in the first game too. That is especially pronounced in the Mars' story line. After the first few chapters, the author starts rushing things, skipping major plot points, fails to present sufficient character development and completely abandons any pretense of caring about their motivations. The result of this is a horrendous final fifth chapter, which falls to the lowest levels of BH1 writing.

The characters in BH2 are shallow and underwritten. Helen is the same hysterical bitch she was the first game. I have no idea why Luke didn't just throw her out of the space shuttle during the journey to Mars - I would have done that. Tom is still a backstabbing bastard and puts his nose into affairs that do not concern him. It's funny that Tanya and Luke are presented as the only sane people in the game... before chapter five switches everything around. Suddenly Tom and Helen are the pinnacles of sanity and reason, while Tanya and Luke go completely yangire. I would be okay with that interpretation if the writing provided any clues to that happening. It all comes out of the blue sky with no foreshadowing and no proper character journey to that state of mind. Writing completely fails in this chapter and basically ruins the game.
Kinky foreplay...
BH2 just like BH1 also has a shitload of endings, but it's a real pain in the ass to try and reach them all, plus the payoff is negligible. There is way too much shared text to enjoy the repeated playthroughs of the game and the endings are way too short and similar to each other. Not to mention that most of the endings are glorified bad ends. It's also prudent to make note of the bug that prevents you getting two of the endings from the gallery: "Guilty" and "To the Moon".

Oh, yes, the bugs! "Bionic Heart 2" seriously needs an exterminator and it's disconcerting that they still haven't been fixed a year after the game's release. As I have already mentioned, two of the endings cannot be reached, a bug involving contradictory endings "Ruthless" and "Too Late" may allow them to be reached at the same time. There is a strange problem with some mirror-flipped sprites and transparency issues with the "paper dolls", where they become blurry when changing positions or expressions. Nevertheless, none of these bugs are game-breaking.
Villains in the Lair of Evil.
There is one additional gameplay element to the game that is worth mentioned - social boss fights. Meaning, you have a limited number of attempts to solve certain situations before you encounter a bad end. While those fights were a welcome distraction from typical VN-style gameplay, once you complete them once, they don't hold much challenge during the subsequent playthroughs. I would have liked to see those fights presenting multiple variations of the correct sequences, so they could be challenging not once but more times. Alas, now this gameplay decision looks more like an interesting gimmick, rather than a full-blown aspect of the game.

Graphical side of the game is probably the most impressive part of it. I disliked the exaggerated animesque art of the prequel, and this VN didn't disappoint me in that department. The backgrounds are appropriately futuristic and manage to create the feeling of an actual sci-fi environment. Sprites are very detailed and expressive, with the art leaning towards a more realistic side. On the other hand, the expressions are overdone and the characters perpetually look like they are overacting their roles. There are also some graphical quirks, for example, Tanya's face is done pretty badly in comparison to the other characters.
Hollywood sex (with bra and panties on).
Unlike the first game in the series, BH2 is, to everyone's relief, not voiced. The voice acting in BH1 was awful and probably mentally scarred more than one player. Background music is quite nice and fitting to the theme, but fails to properly loop in some scenes. I have no idea if that is a bug or a programming decision; would be weird if it's the latter, though.

All in all, "Bionic Heart 2" is a mixed bag. It has great graphics (mostly), moderately good story which turns to shit in the end, weak endings and no character development to speak of. I enjoyed the game to a certain extent, but it's not worth the money being asked. 

Links of Interest

Visual Novel Database
Official site (buy the game here)
Lemma Soft thread
Hints to achieve different endings

Final Verdict: 63%


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