Magicka is one of those games that you find yourself struggling to describe properly, like Katamari Damacy or Castle Crashers. If you tried to explain it in simple, clear terms, you’d end up feeling like an idiot. Embarrassment aside, Magicka could be described as a game where you run around as wizards zapping stuff with magic. Though describing it as such would probably result in your friends staring at you and replying with “Okay, and is that all?” If you tried to describe the essence of the game, the action, silliness, and nonstop pop culture references, they’d probably give you that terribly awkward look. You know, the one that lets you know they’ve completely missed the point of your joke and that it’s entirely your fault for sucking as a comedian. There’s also the option of describing it by comparing it to slightly similar games. For example, a combination of Ghostbusters, Overlord, Castle Crashers, and Zombies Ate My Neighbors. Unfortunately, that kind of description tends to only make sense to the person saying it. On the other hand, this is a review of the game, so I’d best get on with it!
Magicka is a thoroughly entertaining little arcade style game available on Steam, and brought to us by Sweden-based Arrowhead Game Studios. The studio’s first title Magicka has had one hell of a turnout with the damned thing selling over 200,000 copies in its first 17 days on sale. Not bad for a group of 8 college students from the Luleå University of Technology. Though it does make me a tad suspicious as Markus Perrson, the developer of last year’s spectacular indie title Minecraft, is also Swedish. I’m not sure what’s going on over there, but if it means Sweden will continue to export games of this quality, I hope to god it doesn’t stop any time soon.
In Magicka, you control a wizard with the power to manipulate the 8 magical elements (water, fire, lightning, earth, cold, shield, arcane, and life) and use them to brutally murder anything that gets in your way. The game world, your wizard included, is viewed from above in isometric view and you make your way through it by clicking the left mouse button. The right mouse button is used to fire off blasts of magical energy. The unique and rather ingenious feature of Magicka is that the A, S, D, F, Q, W, E, and R buttons are each linked to a type of magic. Hit the A button and click a mouse button to shoot off a blast of Sith style, lightning.
Where it really gets interesting though is when you begin combining types of magic. Powers can be combined by queuing them up before firing them off. A blast of fire can set your enemies ablaze, fire and earth produces a shotgun like blast of explosive rocks, and combining fire and water allows you to release a mighty cloud of steam to, um, dry clean your enemies with? Okay, so not all of the combinations are winners, but one of the joys of Magicka is trying to figure out what all of the combinations do. One combination might create magical landmines, while accidentally adding life magic to the mix produces landmines that, um, heal. But even finding the perfect magical combination is only a temporary solution as different enemies will require unique tactics. Playing through Magicka the first time, my go-to spell combination involved mixing arcane, fire, and lightning into a beam of explosive death. However, when I ran into a group of weather controlling druids, my wizard died enough times that the “Defeated” message is still burned into my screen. What kept killing him off? I kept accidentally hitting the lightning button with my pinky. It turns out that if you summon forth a mighty bolt of lightning while standing in the rain and soaked to the bone, you get to learn about conductivity the hard way.
You can play Magicka on your own, but if you do, be warned that it can be a frustrating and cruel game at times. Where it really blossoms though is in multiplayer gameplay. Up to 4 players can join together to slaughter orcs, goblins, dragons, and strange goat things, and can produce far more impressive magical effects by combining their powers. In addition to the campaign mode, players can also play around with Magicka’s challenge mode which drops players (alone or with friends) in an arena where they face off against wave after wave of monstrous enemies.
The plot of Magicka involves a quest to save a kingdom, defeat an evil horde, and stop an evil wizard. It doesn’t sound like much, but then again the plot of Castle Crashers was little more than “save the princesses,” and like Castle Crashers the plot’s not the reason why you keep playing. Magicka’s story is little more than a crude vehicle of a torrent of great jokes, odd pop culture references, and brutal carnage. If you’re turned off by bad Monty Python, Star Wars and 300-based jokes, then this might not be the game for you. If you’re amused by the concept of a grateful blacksmith offering you an M60 rather than the obligatory magical sword, then you might have just found your game.
Magicka isn’t the longest game, but it’s very replayable and will appeal to fans of multiplayer games or to creepy solo gamers such as myself. And at $9.99 for the full game, it’s not a bad deal. Of course, Magicka does have one other rather great thing going for it at the moment. You can easily just ignore everything I’ve said so far and decide for yourself since you can download the demo for free on Steam. Magicka is a fantastic game that is pretty much guaranteed to entertain. You should still try the demo out for free, but as far as Magicka goes, my advice is to Buy It.