One of my fondest childhood gaming memories involved this game. I distintly remember after finally collecting all the items, I marched to Dracula's castle, however there was a problem, it was a week day morning and I had to leave for school (I was a latch key kid and had to get myself ready and walk to school.). But I was sooooo close!!! I did what any die hard would have in my place and played through until I finished. I don't remember how late I was, 30 minutes tops, and I probably lied about why I was late, but I knew, as I ran to school, that I would have no greater accomplishment on that day.
Simon's Quest departed quite a bit from the original, trading the straightforward linear, action platformer for more of an adventure/RPG hybrid. Exploring was not only encouraged but required. Guidance and direction was rarely given by towns people, and misinformation is common. One of the issues people have with this game is this lack of direction, and the resulting frustration. But, if you know where to go, this is a very charming game to play though.
As an adult, I remember where everything is and can easily breeze though the game (8:35 according to the game clock this weekend, which translates closer 2 -3 hours real time) and that's because as a youth, prior to walkthroughs on the internet, I labored as the game's designers intended. I'm not sure I'd have the patience now.
Graphics: excellent improvement from the fist game. Wonderful music scores as with all game in the franchise. The challenge is different in this game, rather the difficult bosses, the challenge is finding all the items and completing the quest. Controls and mechanics are just as good as the first.
Over all, its a solid game but I can see why many consider this the black sheep of the early franchise. The challenge is total different, free roaming exploration and the three bosses you fight near the end are absolute push-overs.
Great game but it might not be what you're expecting
I understand why their are so many critics with this game, I tend to agree with some of their points but there's some elements first seen in this game that will make the others so great.
The subtitle "Simon's Quest" is very fitting for this game. It's about the journey not the destination. Personally, I love this game, but to newcomers be warned, if you're looking for a game more like the original, best to keep looking.