Game Name – Magicka
ESRB Rating – N/A
Genre – Action-Adventure
Educational Values – Teamwork, Synthesis, Analysis
Platforms – Windows
Where to buy – Steam
When should you buy it? – If you are looking for a game that is fun, clever, and a unique experience.
About the Game
Built by a group of students in Lulea University in Sweden, Magicka is a run-away success story of the indie realm. That is largely due to the unique gameplay style, but also the bright and cheerful aesthetic with campy and playful humor throughout.
Magicka looks like a relatively simple, top down action game; you control a small, cartoon wizard with a deep hood and a staff. You use your elemental powers of Water, Life, Shield, Cold, Lightning, Arcane, Earth and Fire to cast offensive and defensive spells and help traverse the world around you. First, you learn to combine the elements to form more powerful attacks like adding Water to Frost to cast Ice Shards, or cast a spell in a circle around you instead of throwing it in front of you. But that is just the beginning. Once you complete the tutorial and start your adventure, you realize that this play style is like nothing you have ever seen.
If Magicka has one flaw it is that it is very difficult to play solo. Designed from the ground up as a Complementary Cooperative game; playing by yourself leads to getting killed and restarting, a lot. Of course, playing with others is made more complicated by the fact that you can (and do) kill your teammates quite often. Fortunately, you can resurrect them very quickly and keep on fighting.
Working together makes your more powerful than ever.
What the Game Teaches Us
Magicka teaches us to have patience with our teammates! Being killed because your friend accidentally shot a fireball too close to you, or caused a rainstorm that made you wet when you were trying to cast a lightning bolt can get frustrating. But, once the initial frustrations of accidentally being killed have worn off, and your teammates start to do better, you start to realize how powerful combinations of wizards can be. Having one person summon a barrier of flaming rocks while another heals the group, and a third shoot at the enemies with frozen ice shards to injure and slow them down makes for epic combat and plenty of fiero moments.
Beyond the “plays well with others” aspect, Magicka is a simple looking game (you just click to move your wizard, how hard is that?), but the spell combination mechanic provides enough depth to make it varied and interesting no matter how much you play. For example, you ‘gather’ up to five elements at a time by tapping their associated hotkeys and then release them when you are ready to cast a spell. Each element you ‘stack’ on yourself makes your spell more powerful, but also makes you move slower.
If you want to shoot a more powerful Fireball, you can ‘gather’ more elements to yourself. In this case, you can tap “D” three times and “E” twice to ‘gather’ the maximum of five elements which makes your wizard move significantly slower, but allows you to cast a much more powerful Fireball.
That is just one example of the spell casting, but there are dozens of combinations available, each with its own pros and cons. You can combine Arcane with Lightning with Fire and shoot it as a beam. You can combine Life with Earth and shoot a rock that heals everything it hits. You can combine Earth with Frost to shoot a ball that freezes enemies and water, which allows you to cross streams and lakes. From an educational standpoint, you have to analyze the game mechanics, understand them and synthesize an appropriate response.
While some of these decisions and analyses are built into every game, Magicka requires a gamer to move beyond the simple, “Aim cursor. Click mouse button until Target is dead.” that we see in so many other games.
Surrounded? Can’t swim in those heavy robes? Just freeze everything around you!
General Feelings on the Game
Magicka is creative, funny, and exciting. The solo difficulty is a little rough, but with a couple of friends, Magicka can provide hours of gameplay with plenty of “holy crap, did you know you can… ” moments. The self-referential humor and nods to various games and tropes throughout are enough to make any nerd giggle, while taking away nothing from someone who does not get them.
The gameplay is different, and even if you have trouble with the learning curve, it is still worth trying out. So many games today seem to be re-treading the same territory, and Magicka is a like a fresh breeze by comparison. Do not let the fact that it is different and a little tough dissuade you from trying out this game. Plus the price is right at $5.