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Magicka Review

Review; Sep. 20, 2011; Channels: Video Games; By Kyle James Hovanec
Geek humor and a creative spell system only go so far...

Magicka is a game that does so much right and, at the same time, seems to miss out on the basics. It's a charming fantasy world filled with tongue-in-cheek references and a neat spell customization system, but moving across the land is a chore. Up to three other friends can join you in exploring the levels and fighting enemies, but the cluttered screen and awkward movement make it nearly impossible to move when assaulted with a slew of enemies. It's a game of two steps forward, one big step back.

Magicka Screenshots
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Magicka is played from a top-down perspective in a 2.5D environment similar to titles like Diablo II and the original Fallout. The game progresses through a series of levels broken down as chapters, with each chapter containing new areas to explore, enemies to fight, and spells and weapons to find. If you've ever played a dungeon crawler or hack-and-slash brawler before, then the core game play will be entirely familiar to you. Notice I said core, as the game's main feature of mixing magic is something entirely new.

Magicka relies heavily on the use of magic to defeat your enemies. The basics are present and accounted for (fire, ice, electricity, etc.) and can be used against enemies and environmental obstacles. Where the game shines is the ability to mix spells to cause even more damage and destruction. Electricity does well on its own, but when combined with wind magic, you'll create a lighting storm to rain down on your foes. Ice enemies getting you down? Create a volcano with a mixture of fire and earth magic to melt them away. The biggest joy comes from finding new spell combinations. There is no limit to how much magic you can use, as there is no meter, no mana gauge to keep your eye on, and no potions to search for -- just an arsenal of magic and dozens of combinations at your disposal.

The humor in this game is fantastic: never overbearing and never too self-referential to exclude even the most ignorant in pop culture. What would normally be a vanilla fantasy tale of a group of wizards teaming up to fight evil is made all the more hilarious when references from Star Wars, Star Trek, Highlander, Harry Potter, Dr. Who, 300, Medal of Honor, Metal Gear Solid, and South Park all make an appearance. These references appear within the first 5 (of 13) chapters, and there are many more to be found.

Aside from the solo campaign, there are additional modes: an arena mode in which up to 3 other players can team up to fight never-ending waves of enemies; a multiplayer mode that includes 3 other friends to go through the story; and a versus mode pitting you against other spell casters. Out of all of the modes, the story co-op was the most fun.

With everything Magicka does right, there are many areas where the game stumbles and, in a few cases, just plain fails. Movement is similar to the old cyberpunk classic Syndicate where you click your mouse where you want to move. In theory this sounds like a way to move around without hassle or the use of the keyboard, but once combat gets hectic and a large group of enemies begins to fill the screen, it becomes an utter chore to simply move around the field and get out of the way of enemy attacks. I often found myself trapped behind a wall of enemies with no chance for escape. Countless times I ended up dead from simply being unable to move. It's frustrating and sucks all the enjoyment from the title. Combine this frustrating mechanic with a limited number of checkpoints (and the inability to save whenever) and suddenly you're left with levels that drag on forever and take even longer to complete due to the poor movement scheme. Even other players don't help as you now have three more obstacles to dodge while you try to attack or escape your enemies.

Magicka is a game filled with such good writing and creative features that it is utterly bewildering that something as simple as moving and progressing through the levels is frustrating beyond all belief. At first I thought it was something that I could get over -- simply cast aside -- because the rest of the game is so enjoyable. However, as I kept playing, the amount of fun I was having decreased as I progressed until the point of manic-induced frustration. By the end I wanted nothing more to do with it. Turns out the positives don't outweigh the negatives. No amount of Star Wars references will ever change that.

*Editor's Note: OMGN received a free review copy of the game for this article.

Comments

Review Score
6.4

Teen

Titles rated T (Teen) have content that may be suitable for ages 13 and older. Titles in this category may contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling, and/or infrequent use of strong language.

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