Cold Snake takes down the Ghosts of Christmas Past!
Merry Gear Solid 2: Ghosts of Christmas Past is both a tribute to and parody of the classic Metal Gear titles. You play as "Cold Snake", infiltrating Outer Savin' Mall to foil the plans of the Ghosts of Christmas Past and perhaps salvage the spirit of Christmas.
I don't know how someone ended up connecting Metal Gear with Christmas, but it makes for a hilarious concept that goes all the way through to the end. As expected, the game is full of Christmas puns, from holiday-themed items to enemies. Merry Gear Solid 2 makes sure to include all the Metal Gear tropes it can, including lengthy villain monologues, a convoluted plot that slowly gets exposed as you play and a barrage of incoming transmissions to give you tips.
The humor doesn't end there, though. The title makes jokes and references to video games, movies and of course the Metal Gear franchise at every opportunity. MGS2 also makes fun of itself in the process, which is key to any good parody.
Keeping with the blended Metal Gear/Christmas theme, the music for this title features overly-dramatic renditions of popular holiday favorites. Again, two things that don't seem like they'd fit together somehow end up working perfectly! The music is often tense to accommodate the gameplay, but then the tension is broken for a bit as you realize what song it is and get a quick chuckle. You really have to hear it for yourself to appreciate it.
Like most of the humorous titles covered here recently, MGS2 also includes solid gameplay - and unlike Snake - it's not hard to find! While my highlight video focuses more on the comedic aspects, rest assured that the game itself is chock full of sneaking around and figuring out how to avoid or neutralize obstacles. It very faithfully mimics most (if not all) of the classic Metal Gear mechanics, while adding a few welcome features too (such as auto-saves at the start of each location)!
While MGS2 is quite good, it's not entirely perfect. There's a spot that involves a massive amount of backtracking (which I'd argue is a popular trope well worth taking a jab at). This particular trek is quite well-designed, requiring you to use new skills and items to run in reverse. Sadly, this will go unnoticed, as most players are only going to grumble at having to "replay" the same areas. That's exactly how I felt while playing, and it wasn't until later that I realized just how genius it actually was.
Additionally, I feel this title really could've done with controller support. Granted, it didn't take long to get used to the controls as-is, but would've been a nice feature.
Merry Gear Solid 2 does a remarkable job at both being a faithful tribute to the classic Metal Gear titles while also successfully poking a lot of fun at the franchise. It's often tough to get even one of those right, let alone both at the same time, and this game adds in a holiday-themed twist to boot! Put this game at the very top of your (Must Play For) Christmas list!