playstationblog_yiik_ss003.png Ackk Studios' Y2K gets stranger and stranger as you play it, but no one in the game world seems to think so. After going through the records in Alex's room and getting his grocery list stolen by a cat, I thought things were going to be pretty normal. Once you follow that cat through flashing mazes that bend reality, stairwells suspended in the void of space, and through doorways hidden beneath crying Illuminati pyramids, that normalcy quietly lets itself out, never to return. This only seems to inconvenience Alex as he rolls with meeting new people, fighting monsters, and solving puzzles in the weird landscapes and world of Y2K.

playstationblog_yiik_ss004.png Alex keeps a remarkably cool head through it all, taking to the game's RPG combat, and environmental puzzles without much trouble. A record might not be my first choice of weapon, and given how quickly Alex can get taken down by the game's tough enemies, there might be a reason for that. The experience system in the early build I was given wasn't working yet, but combat was balanced to the point where it was hard, but fair. By using all of my combat options (and the thankfully generous save points), everything turned out just fine for poor Alex. Still, combat has a couple of nuances you'll need to learn if you want to live long in this weird place.

playstationblog_yiik_ss005.png You have a couple of different spells and abilities besides hitting monsters with records. Alex had a Panda Barrier he could form that would protect him for a few turns, and his other party member had some healing spells. More handy was that Y2K uses a timed button pressing mechanic like Super Mario RPG, letting you block some incoming damage or hurt your enemies more with your attacks. I love these systems because they add some urgency to the sometimes-sleepy task of turn-based combat, but sometimes even those systems get too easy to execute. Y2K's attacking and defending often required at least two very specifically-timed hits to do them right, so I found it really challenging to get the timing down.

y2k2.png That might sound unfair, but the game provides a sliding bar to let you know when to press the button. It's less reliant on intuition and guessing than a system like that of Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story, and the dual presses made it a little more demanding. It makes visualizing when to hit easier than some games, but the timing was much more demanding and specific. I'd gotten it down by the preview's end, but only barely, still managing to screw it up often. Other attacks use different inputs than just hitting buttons while a symbol slid down a bar, showing that there will be other creative manual inputs required for different spells as the game progresses, so I'm interested to see what comes of them.

y2k1.png As you learn the timing of dodging, you'll be taking a lot of hard hits. You're going to want to find a friend to absorb some of that damage fast, and that means exploring the weird, but striking world of Y2K. Starting off in the sunset-drenched streets of Alex's own neighborhood as he comes back from university, there is a calming beauty about its locations. Even while chasing the cat that stole your grocery list, you run through tall grass stained orange by the waning sun, windmills spinning on rocky hills behind you. The game uses a lot of color to create this calming mood, but it's not long before its using those same vivid colors to make you feel like you've set foot outside reality.

playstationblog_yiik_ss002.png When you find yourself in the confines of a surreal factory, you'll soon be wandering through dark mazes whose paths light up with shimmering, bright pinks and yellows, or walking across islands floating in space as you step through windows that lead to a staircase in a starry void. Normalcy got left behind somewhere as you wander through the dark blues and purples of this weird world, where reality seems somewhat skewed. It's unusual that I notice color choice in a game, but something about these colors that made reality seem much more warm and welcoming, and the other world seem far more dark and weird.

y2k3.png Maybe crying Illuminati pyramids had something to do with that. You end up in a pretty weird place once you follow that cat into the factory, looking like you've walked right into Earthbound's Moonside. Floating skulls and blobs dog you as you try to make sense of each location's internal logic, as they seem to be made up of pieces of reality floating in a bizarre space. Offices are suspended in the darkness, connected by a series of platforms that only make sense in the reality the game presents you. A window leads from an island to a set of stairs hanging from nothing. A door opens into a field of red plants that's surrounded by huge statues. What does it all mean? Why is it there? The preview build was silent on this, keeping me guessing where I would be going next.

playstationblog_yiik_ss001.png These strange landscapes, while keeping the visuals consistently surprising and fun to look at, also make for some great puzzle setups. When reality doesn't make a lot of sense, you're free to do some neat tricks to create weird landscape puzzles. Y2K lets you interact in the environment using tools like Wild Arms or Lufia: Rise of the Sinistrals (the good one), plunking down your panda pal to hold a button or flinging the list-stealing cat at distant switches. When you're fighting skulls on an island in space, it makes perfect sense to have to use a panda to hold down a giant red button or use a cat to hit a lever so you change the path of your flying carpet. Sure, why not?

y2k4.png The music brings it all together, setting a skewed mood right from the beginning. The music sounds good, and is catchy in a chill, soothing way, but there always seems to be something off about it. It's like it's striving to put the world at a slant, as it's very close to sounding quite pretty, but a minor change in tone or purposely-off note throws it off. It literally sounds weird, and sets the tone for a world that isn't quite right. I enjoyed the tracks from the preview build, finding a pleasant strangeness to them, and it does wonders for making the world click.

y2k5.png As weird as this world is, a shocking moment came at the end of the preview to show me that Ackk Studios had plenty more strange tricks to show me. I'm excited to see what comes from this weird, challenging world, as the possibilities are endless for where Y2K can take me. With its bizarre, relaxing music, color-drenched landscapes, and cast of oddball characters, all I know is that I won't know what's coming next.

For more information on Y2K and Ackk Studios, you can go to their website or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.