Quantumnauts 2: Black Hole Happens!

Posted by Mervyn Graham.
First posted on 03 February 2013. Last updated on 03 February 2013.
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Quantumnauts 2: Black Hole Happens!
Bob's heavy metal music robot band has a familiar looking guitarist.
Quantumnauts 2: Black Hole Happens!
Bob is greeted by the robot leader Primo.
Quantumnauts 2: Black Hole Happens!
The planet Tir is inhabited by a race of robots who worship humans.
Quantumnauts 2: Black Hole Happens!
Bob leaves the local pub in Muttra.
Quantumnauts 2: Black Hole Happens!
Bob discovers the wreck of an old spaceship from another civilization.

Quantumnauts 2: Black Hole Happens! (also known as Quantumnauts: Chapter 2: Black Hole Happens!) is a parody sci-fi thriller from Danilo Cagliari of Midian Design. Available in both Italian and English, the game is the fifth adventure title released by the indie developer.

Quantumnauts 2: Black Hole Happens! is a third-person, point-and-click adventure game and the sequel to the original Quantumnauts (also known as Quantumnauts: Chapter 1: Speed of Light, Space Pirates and Multiverses). The game takes place 3 years after Bob Marshall, the protagonist from the original game, first joins the Quantumnaut Fleet. Bob has since been promoted to the rank of Captain and is now happily married to Neena (also from the original game). Colonel Fen'Herh, the Commanding Officer of the Quantumnaut Orbital Station, is jealous of Bob and is also infatuated with Neena. Not surprisingly, the Colonel schemes to try to get rid of Bob by sending him on a suicide mission to a supermassive black hole. Fortunately for Bob, he manages to escape with his ship to a nearby planet named Tir that is inhabited by a race of robots. Bob is taken to the robots' leader, Primo, who mistakes him as the prophesized Saviour (or "God to save them") and offers him a life of luxury there. Bob now has a difficult choice to make—to live on Tir as a deity or to find a way home to return to Neena. Bob also remembers that he has a score to settle with Colonel Fen'Herh.

Installation of the game is simple and glitch free. Like previous games from the developer, the game can be configured (by running winsetup.exe located in the directory where the game is installed) to be played in either full screen or windowed mode. Other available settings include options for digital sound and MIDI music. Screen resolutions can be adjusted through the use of filters. Once the game starts, a menu is presented from where you can select Tutorial, Start, Restore, and Quit. Selecting the option for the tutorial gives you an introduction to the game's main interface and brief instructions on how to play the game. On subsequent restarts, the game can be launched by running QN2.exe only (located in the same directory as winsetup.exe).

The game begins with a long cinematic cut scene aboard the Quantumnaut Orbital Station. Colonel Fen'Herh is talking to Neena about Bob, while Bob is elsewhere playing heavy metal music with his robot band. The Colonel then summons Bob about a top secret mission in which he must fly solo in his own Quantumship, the Higgins One. The Colonel plots the coordinates for the flight, and Bob promptly takes off from the station. Soon far, Neena signals Bob that his ship is actually heading directly toward a massive black hole known as the Immense Black in the center of the Multiverse. After taking emergency evasive action to try to escape, Bob finds that the ship's reactors have been badly damaged, making the jump back to the station impossible. For months, the Quantumship drifts through space, until it crashes down into the planet Tir amidst a snow storm. Stranded alone on Tir, Bob must now find a way to survive and to get home.

Playing as Bob, you explore the different environments by pointing and left clicking with the mouse to where you want to go. Walking is done at a brisk but fixed pace. Left clicking on an object highlights it, while right clicking on an object describes it. The inventory is placed at the bottom of the screen. You begin the game with 3 items already in the inventory. Throughout the course of the game, you will locate, gather, and use another 26 items. All items you collect are used in some ways. Pixel hunting is necessary to find some items, particularly those that are well hidden in darker areas.

Saving the game is done by using the Esc key to bring up a menu with options to Save, Restore, or Quit. Clicking on Save brings up a save slot reminiscent of the old Sierra adventure games where you can insert a brief description. There are a generous number of save slots available. You cannot die in this game, so there is no real need to keep too many saves.

For an indie game built using AGS (Adventure Game Studio) machine, I am very impressed with the game's overall production. It is refreshing to find an indie game that is so perfectly localized from Italian to English, without a single spelling mistake or grammatical error. There is no speech, hence there is no need for any lip synching in the animations. All of the conversations are carried through dialog choices shown on the bottom of the screen. Dialogs are shown in the vicinity of the speakers, with different colors used for different speakers' lines. The eye-catching, aesthetic graphics are a vast improvement over that of the original game in the series. The background environments are now highly detailed. When Bob walks, reflections and moving shadows on the floor can be seen.

The story is much deeper that you are led on to believe at first. Tir is not just an idyllic planet as it initially seems. You soon learn about the rebels (known as the Atheists) and their uprising against Primo. You also learn about the creation of the Multiverse. Biblical scholars will recognize God's name written as in the Hebrew Scriptures in the game.

The game is a parody of numerous television shows, movies, computer games, and even classic literature. There are references to "Schwarzy" ("I'll be back"), Penelope and Telemachus (from Homer's Iliad), Ulysses (from Homer's Odyssey), Adama (from Battlestar Galactica), R2-D2 (from Star Wars) as well as the Enterprise (from Star Trek), the Stargate (from Stargate SG-1), and many others. Personally, I believe that these references are a reflection of Cagliari's own tastes in popular culture. There are even references to Cagliari's previous game, Oz Orwell and the Crawling Chaos.

The puzzles are varied. Some are dialog puzzles, while a few are music puzzles. All of the puzzles are well integrated and logical and do not feel contrived. Knowing what items are to be used or how to combine them are puzzles within themselves. Cagliari has borrowed from classic Sierra games in the use of a scoring system. You can score a maximum of 500 points, but only if you make all of the right choices in the game. For some players, this gives an incentive to replay the game to try to improve their scores.

Sound effects are almost nonexistent, confined to only footsteps and ambient noises such as wind. The music, composed and performed by Cagliari himself, is brilliant and complements the game perfectly.

In sum, Quantumnauts 2: Black Hole Happens! is a competent follow-up to the original Quantumnauts. The game is not overly long, offering about 10 hours of play. The dialog is witty and humorous, and the popular culture parody is sure to provide a few chuckles. The game is family orientated and can be enjoyed by gamers of all ages. In all, the future looks bright for the Quantumnauts Fleet!

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