You’d think that amazing elemental powers would earn you some respect. You’d think the ability to explode your enemies would cause some fear! No such luck. In the world of Magicka, wizards cast mighty spells but still take plenty of sass.
Magicka sold over a million copies as a PC game, but that version featured wizards running all over the screen and a control scheme that depended heavily on mouse and keyboard. It’s hard to see how that could have been copied on iOS, and thankfully publisher Paradox Interactive didn’t try. This version of Magicka is a side-scrolling game that keeps the most entertaining parts of the original and streamlines the rest.
You play a nameless red-robed wizard who has been possessed by a spirit of the underworld. Possession has its disadvantages– for one thing, it attracts every monster for miles around– and there’s a dire plot afoot that could lead to the End of the World. It’s up to you and a neurotically in-the-closet vampire to stop the monsters and the plot.
The story is completely linear, but we were so busy laughing at the jokes that we didn’t mind. The game is full of absurd characters and sharp dialogue– it reminded us of The Secret of Monkey Island and other games from the late and lamented Lucasarts. From beach party goblins to moose dragons to a special guest appearance by Thor, it felt like every level had a new and goofier surprise in it.
The magick is also a lot of fun. There are no cooldowns or mana or skill trees to manage. Instead, each spell is cast by choosing from six basic elements, which are represented by a row of buttons across the bottom of the screen. You tap the buttons to “gather” up to four elements and tap a target to cast a spell.
The beauty of the system is that it is as complicated as you want to make it. If you tap the Lightning button a few times, you’ll spray lightning all over the place, and that’s good. Combine Lightning with Life and Fire, and you’ll get a beam attack that’s better. Start memorizing specific combos like Lightning-Shield-Lightning to teleport into enemies and make them explode? Now you’re cooking with gas!
There are a lot of combination spells to discover, and you’re unlikely to memorize them all. Fortunately, there’s a “Book of Knowledge” that fills itself in as you encounter enemies and spells. If your favorite spells aren’t doing the job, it’s easy to look up the weaknesses of a foe and find something that will wreak havoc upon him. You can also unlock familiars, robes, staves and scrolls that let you optimize your wizard’s preferred style of mayhem.
Magicka is a satisfying solo game, but it was also designed for cooperative multiplayer. After logging onto the server, you can set up games with friends or drop into quick play games with randomly-selected players.
Incinerating monsters as a group is entertaining, but the relatively small battlegrounds in the iPad version make cooperative play difficult. It’s easy to take out your fellow wizards with friendly fire, which is only fun when you want to do it. We also had some trouble staying connected, though the server recognized us when we logged back in and was able to return us to the games we were knocked out of.
Even with imperfect multiplayer, Magicka is a blast. If the story doesn’t make you grin, then summoning a rainstorm to wet your enemies so you can electrocute them with double-damage lightning bolts will.