I really, really, *really* wish this game had a different control scheme.
Magicka, a game from Aarowhead Game Studios, is a fantasy game, chock full of pop culture and industry jokes, where you wield magic to save the day, guided by your honorable instructor Vlad, who is most definitely not a vampire.
Two things make this game super fun for me. First, the game environment is just awesome. With so many games trying very hard to not break immersion, it’s refreshing to play a game that throws that all out the window and just litters itself with pop culture references. Don’t get me wrong, immersion is an important staple to good game design for some very solid reasons. Every now and then, though, it’s nice to just have some silly fun. If all games were like that, this wouldn’t be anywhere near as impactful.
Second, I get a big kick out of mixing my own magic. In Magicka, you have access to a set of basic eight elements, (fire, water, frost, earth, lightning, arcane, healing, and shield .. there are other combo elements you can learn, like steam and ice, but you have to figure those out and they don’t add to your hotkey list). You then queue up these elements in various combinations to create your spells. These can then be cast in one of 4 ways: on yourself, as a projectile/beam/cone, as a PBAoE, or on your melee weapon.
I love the whole element-mixing aspect of this game so very much. If you watch Keaven & Steven in the MOOOR-Ning, you’ll know we have talked about Magicka a few times, so I wont rehash the reasons I really like this quasi-free-form magic system. However, it’s safe to say I have a very clear pattern: Full Metal Alchemist, Avatar:The Last Airbender, Elements of Magic… all have this free-form feel to their “magic,” and all of them are very near and dear to my heart.
Another crazy aspect of the game that adds tons of hilarity, your spells affect *everyone* in the area of effect indiscriminately. The game offers four-player coop play. So when you’re all in there blasting your spells willy-nilly, someone’s going to caught in the arcane crossfire. When you try to heal your friend, and a Goblin interposes himself between the two of you, guess what… that Goblin gets your l33t healz. Kthxbi.
Rock Paper Shotgun has a great post on this very subject titled, Spell Check: 5 Mistakes To Avoid In Magicka. One of the examples used in that post illustrates this point very well:
What is technically possible: Deploying a close-range blast of ice to freeze a massive monster in its tracks, allowing one of your friends to quickly throw a rock at the frozen creature to shatter it into a thousand pieces.
What you will do: Deploy a blast of ice to freeze a massive monster in its tracks, allowing one of your friends to fling an unnecessarily large stone at it, only to miss and hit you instead, crushing your frail sorcerer instantly and sending your corpse bouncing clean out of the level. The monster unfreezes, turns and begins chasing your friend around in a Benny Hill style.
There is no penalty for death (other than going back to the nearest checkpoint) so if you die and your buddy has to rez you, it’s no big deal – you’ll probably be too busy laughing at how you just died in that explosions caused by crossing beams of opposing elements. There’s an achievement for that in the Steam version of the game, by the way.
With all this praise, what could I possibly say that would be negative? Two things. Let me list them:
1) Remember how I said when (not if.. when) you died (if your party wipes, rather, since if one person survives he can start reviving the rest of you), you respawn at the nearest checkpoint? Those checkpoints are not save points. If you have to quit the game before you finish the level, you have to start all over from the beginning of the level when you come back. Yeah, I know… /sadpanda
2) THE CONTROLS ARE EFFING STUPID!! I can’t believe I just screamed that… but it’s true. In just about every game out, these days, movement is controlled by WASD. In Magicka, however, these keys are used to queue up your magic. SO… when you’re frantically trying to run away from a huge armored troll about to smash your head in with a two-handed hammer, in your panic you haven’t moved anywhere, you’ve actually just queued up 3 or 4 globes of Life mana. [glare]
That said… the rest of the game has been SOOOO much fun, and so fun to play, these two downsides (as huge as the latter one is) end up being drowned out by the giggles, laughter, and high-fiving you’ll be sharing with your friends as you push through “just one more level!“