by Tom Mackey
reviewed on PC
Fun is a concept that on occasion goes missing in video games. This is why it’s so refreshing stepping into the world of Magicka for the first time. Having not played the original game, Magicka 2 was something of an anomaly for me, an unknown entity that I’d seen but never experienced. Now that I’ve dipped my toes in its fantasy waters, though, it is safe to say that ‘fun’ is at the core of what makes this game so enjoyable.
In Magicka 2, it is the quest of 1 to 4 brave wizards to journey through the land of Midgard and rid it of evil. The land has been almost cleared of wizards after the Wizard Wars and it’s up to you, guided along the way by Vlad and your dynamic spells, to make things right again. Each wizard has eight elemental spells at their command, which can be combined to create more powerful spells. Each combination can include up to five elements giving you a decent number of options when it comes to pulling off a large variety of spells. Each elemental spell also has the effect you’d expect it to on your enemies and environment. Well, most of the time. Water counteracts fire, ice can freeze water and electricity can be used to power machines in the world, for example. Some of those combinations can be a little more bizarre, however, like combining life with death and casting it upon yourself to make yourself practically invulnerable to multiple sources of damage. All of the spells available to you also have more than one form of delivery. They can be cast as a ranged attack, an area-of-effect attack, a weapon-buff or a self-cast.
Once you take into account these different casting effects, the number of different possible spell combinations can become somewhat intimidating. But what Magicka 2 pulls off well is making it very straightforward when showing you what to do, which means that before you know it you’ll be laying waste with impressive combos. Some of the fun also lies in discovering those combos as you play, especially when playing with friends. The chaos of four wizards randomly casting at once is a sight to behold. It becomes even more chaotic when you realise that friendly fire is always on, meaning you have to be that little bit more careful when casting spells. However, the hilarity of accidentally wiping out your entire team is almost worth it the first few times, but maybe not the 9th or 10th time. You do have the option to revive fallen comrades and there’s always fun to be had when dousing the flames you may have sparked on a team-mate. Playing with friends also makes the game a fair bit easier, it’s not impossible to go it alone in the main campaign, but it’s not quite as fun either.
Every Fantasy Trope Going
There aren't too many games that have me smiling from the get go, but Magicka 2 pulled it off. From the opening cut scene, into the tutorial section and throughout the game, there is a constant and pervasive humour that would force even the most hardened of gamers to crack a smile. The dialogue is full of wit and silliness that is wonderfully self-aware. Nothing is safe from ridicule, with every fantasy trope working its way in alongside some other charming little bits and pieces here and there (even Monty Python references turn up at points). It’s not restricted to just the cut-scenes either, with NPC’s and enemies spouting some wonderfully stupid lines. The game makes clear its comical intent and the campaign reflects that in its not particularly inspiring but still ridiculous nature. It lends enough in terms of fun to feel in keeping with the hilarious and chaotic nature of the gameplay. It does have its frustrating moments, with certain areas and enemies that don’t feel quite as well designed or implemented. There were a number of times where I found myself frustrated by certain areas where the challenge unfairly ramps up. But, overall, the campaign maintains that positive level of fun and players shouldn't be put off by a few trying moments.
The game is wonderful to look at as well, with the same cartoonish style from the original game and some nice variety in locations. The colour-palette is as vibrant as you’d expect and when in the heat of the moment you can bear witness to some wonderful explosions of colour and great animations. The frame-rate also held up throughout most of my experience and more importantly, never faltered when things got messy. Combat is so frenetic in Magicka 2 that any slow down would be fatal and fortunately it never did. I never really came across any connectivity issues either when playing online so finding matches should hopefully not be a problem.
The original game, though something of a cult hit, was known for its technical hitches in its early days and Magicka 2 fairs far better than its predecessor. There are still a few niggles here and there with controls sometimes not registering when you need them to. I also found navigating the levels felt a little too floaty at times and I wasn't moving exactly where I wanted to. When the core gameplay mechanics involve rushing to enter commands as fast as you can without damaging yourself and those with you, this definitely amped up the action. There’s some clipping here and there, but it more adds to the charm of the game than anything else and doesn't really detract from the gameplay experience.
Fun’s All That Matters
Magicka 2 is fun when playing alone and much more fun when playing with friends. A few technical and campaign hitches aside, the game maintains the same kind of charm and humour that the original seems to have had in spades. If fun is what you’re missing in games, especially co-op fun, then Magicka 2 is a must have.
Hilarious, loads of fun and far more polished than the original.
A few graphical hitches, campaign falters at points.