When the Myst-style adventure The Crystal Key was released back in 1999, it received a ho-hum reception at best and was quickly forgotten. Given that history, it might seem odd for The Adventure Company to bother releasing a sequel five years later. Against the odds, it turned out to be a wise move--or at least not a foolish one. While Crystal Key 2 sure isn't a stunner, it's still a fairly solid adventure game that has its charms.
Call is saddened by his people's fate, but the game doesn't help you to care.
One big thing that holds Crystal Key 2 back is its writing. You play as a youth named Call. Your father saved your homeworld of Evany from an evil menace in the original game, but the expected peace and prosperity never came. Instead, Evany's citizens shuffle around like zombies, with only Call spared thanks to fortuitous timing.
The game opens with a scene of a morose Call sitting on a deserted street in Evany. A mysterious woman suddenly appears and tries to talk to him, but she is quickly dragged off by masked soldiers. She drops her notebook, from which Call learns that other worlds have been affected by the same stupefying pall that afflicts Evany's people. He naturally decides to seek her out and save his people. To do so, he'll have to travel to a distant world by stepping through a portal that opens with the eponymous crystal key (which is otherwise of absolutely no bearing on the game).
The big problem here is that you never actually see what's happened to Evany, so you never feel its plight. It can be hard to care about a problem when you can't see and relate to the people affected by it. You barely even see the bad guys, either; instead, you mostly just hear about them second hand from the game's characters. Those characters are bland and few and far between--here's yet another adventure game populated by about eight people. On top of that, the characters might look like aliens, yet they talk and act just like ordinary humans. (Some of them even look like ordinary humans, improbably enough.) Just as hokey, dialogue is minimal and usually repeated verbatim every time you try to talk to a different character.
In other words, the gameworld isn't well fleshed out at all. Crystal Key 2's story is neglected during much of the game, anyway, where you feel like you're just solving puzzles for the heck of it. To top things off, the ending feels muddled and anticlimactic.