By Video_Game_King 19 Comments
And so goes another game in the Humble Indie Bundle. Of course, there are more of those now than there have been people in all of history, so the statement has lost some of its weight, especially when you consider the inclusion of Magicka. Now I'm not calling the game bad.....actually, yea, I sort of am. The core concepts are good, though. Mix and match magic? Good! Arena combat? Good! Combined? Ungood!
Especially given what's framing these two ideas...kind of. Before I get into the negative parts of this blog (otherwise known as "this blog"), let it be known that I like the fantasy atmosphere. It's just really effective at projecting a fairy tale atmosphere. You get some cute, squishy graphics, storybook narrations between chapters, and just about everything you need to put your daughter to sleep. But then comes the humor of the game, which will presumably keep her bouncing off the walls in utter confusion. Wow, what a strange joke. Still funnier than Magicka. At least it wasn't a cultural reference, because that's all you'll get with this game. Not even jokes that engage the material they're referencing to humorous effect. Just references; cue cards with the words "GRIM FANDANGO. LAUGH" written on them, expecting you to laugh without giving any reason why. And this is the best case scenario. Don't get the reference (quite a real risk when you realize how little overlap there is between the Diablo and Aristocats audiences)? Prepare to be even more confused than you were when there were hyperactive little girls jumping through this blog. I think the best example is Vlad, whom the game constantly insists is not a vampire. Why would I assume that in the first place? His accent is the only thing I can go on. Otherwise, I don't have a clue. If it is a reference, I don't know what to. If it isn't, it's just not funny. More forced, really.
Fortunately, you don't come to the game for the humor. I think I outlined the problems with that approach. Instead, it's all about the magic (go to Japan if you want some ka), which, in theory, works just fine. You get 10 elements and 5 slots to put them in. Some quick math indicates that this leaves us.....30000 options. A little less when you consider how some elements cancel out others, but still, not bad. That's certainly enough options to encourage experimentation, and that's not even taking into consideration the different ways you can cast spells. You have weapon buffs, regular spells, armor buffs....no, that's pretty much it. Still, though, that's enough to fuck around with to keep you busy for a long time. Add on top of that a bunch of set spells you find over the course of the game, and the magic system looks reasonably strong and deep. That's the keyword, though: looks. Here's an important question: is there really a reason to explore different spell combinations?
Nope. Not really. Now we begin to see where the core game falls apart. Turns out putting this magic making system into what is essentially an arena fighter ruins both. How can that be? Wasn't Super Smash TV fun? Isn't lighting imps on fire with flaming thunder all kinds of fun? Both of those statements are true. However, these are not two tastes that go well together. Combining all these spells requires patience and thought, two luxuries that you're not going to have when there are twelve goblins chasing you across the screen. Instead, you're going to fall back on spamming whatever spell you found was the most useful at the beginning of the game. (There's no leveling system, so the enemies don't become particularly stronger over the course of the game.) For me, it was some combination of lightning and either ice or fire. The perfect combination of crowd control and stacking damage, all without the strategy the developers were hoping for.
But speaking of crowd control, that's the name of the game:
Magicka crowd control. On this, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I can certainly see the appeal. There's just something fun and chaotic about having to think on your feet to make sure you're not overwhelmed with enemies. I'd compare it to tower defense, but that's a dumb comparison. On the other hand, there are a ton of enemies, so it's incredibly easy to become overwhelmed at any given time. Yes, you have a sword to whittle down enemies in your immediate vicinity, but unless it can freeze enemies in their place, there's really no point in using it. (There is a sword that can do that. Just want to be clear on that.) With so many enemies that want you dead, you're gonna get caught in a corner, die, and then die again because you couldn't get out of said corner. Temporary invincibility isn't enough, especially since casting a buff of any kind immediately gets rid of it. I suppose it's relevant to mention that I was playing this on single player when the game would have preferred me to play with another human being.
Oh, and I should probably mention that the game's ridiculously bugged. No amount of bug bombs could save it, although I think that's more because I'm thinking of a different kind of bug. It started after installation, when the mouse wouldn't display on full screen. Granted, I planned on changing to windowed mode, regardless, but that's not a good sign. But we can't play the game yet, since the button that lets you do that is having a bad day and needs some down time. The game's good, though, right? It is only if you consider the following good: being trapped in a horrible limbo because the game over screen didn't show. Being resurrected in such a way that you cannot continue the game. Weapons dancing on the ground at the behest of some celestial puppet master who doesn't want you picking up that cool new weapon. Frustrated with all this, I decided to pay attention during the credits, and I didn't see any listings for a debug team or QA guys. Nothing worrying about that, right? And the version I played was after several patches and updates. That should show you the level of confidence the developers had in this game, and how much you should put in it, too.
- I'd make a Family Guy joke here, but if anything, the humor is closer to a Friedberg and Seltzer film.
- I very much like magic customization, but I'd like if I had a reason to use it in the first place.
- Also, bugs. So many bugs.
Your previous time transgressions have displeased the gods, Mario. Now you are damned to be frozen in time forever for your avarice, always conscious of the fate to which you have been consigned.
Tentarafoo-la, Wing of Madoola, bippity boppity boo. Put it together and what have you got? The most confusing introduction to a blog I've ever thought up. Certainly not the best way to sell you on this game, and believe me, the game has enough going against it already. Namely, a crappy beginning that's no fun to play. But on the other side of that bad introduction is....well, an average game. Is it worth it? Probably not, but I still liked it.
Again, though, this is in spite of the really bad first few levels. It's like all of the things that eventually make the game fun conspire against the game itself. The combat, for instance, won't do you any favors. For a while, enemies are going to take a few hits to bring down, but sadly, you can only hit one at a time. Too bad those sleeping bag burrito monsters come in groups and infinitely spawn off screen. Thus you are forced to hop over them until you become stronger, and this brings with it two realizations. Realization the first: you move ridiculously slow and can only jump on inch off the ground before you break your shins. The next realization: the levels aren't terribly long. I know that combination sounds contradictory, but skipping over all the enemies makes the levels go by very quickly, even when you find all the little secrets and items and whatnots. It's almost like the developers weren't confident in their level designing capabilities and decided to pit the odds against you so you wouldn't notice. Fortunately, this gets better. Kind of. Straight lines give way to maze-like levels that require some effort to navigate. Unfortunately, if you don't find some necessary upgrades, it's quite easy to get stuck in such a way that you cannot possibly advance.
But only if you don't have enough boots. Once you have two or three of them, every single level turns into a Lunarian moon bounce, thus revealing the game's greatest strength: not the enemies. What? Yea, this is also around the time your weapons become more powerful, but infinite spawns still make them a pain in the ass to be avoided at all costs. The boss fights are pretty cool, though. You fight eggs and dragons and stuff with the power of jumps. Anyway, most of the game's fun lies in the level design. There are just so many nooks and crannies to these things, and the game rewards you heftily for finding them. You get cool weapons and power ups and hell, there's even a chick that gives you a key word for no real reason. What more could you want? Maybe some more variety, as there are only about four types of levels repeated over 16 stages. Still, that's a solid 16 levels of jumping about castles, discovering what you can and can't jump on. Well, a solid 12 levels of jumping about castles, prefaced by 4 dreadful levels of struggling through straight lines and wizard spawns. Is it worth it? That's for you to decide. The perfect metaphor for life!
- A very bad start
- gives way to an average game.
- This is a haiku.