Magicka is a game where you are a wizard in a fantasy land that has to fight through hordes of otherwordly enemies to save the world, using spells of varying elements and properties.
…what’s that, sounds like another boring top-down isometric dungeon crawler, like Diablo or Gauntlet?
Okay, how about this: Magicka is a game where you can combine elements like Lightning, Shield, Ice, and Arcane to create electric icebergs that explode, causing enemies to take explosion damage, get frozen, thaw out, and then be electrocuted, all in that order. Also, it has tons of Star Wars references, and everyone sounds like the Swedish Chef from the Muppets.
Is that still not awesome enough for you? If you need a definitive statement, here it is: Magicka is a brilliant game with a clever plot rife with pop cultural gems, and a co-op that’s undoubtedly the most entertaining multiplayer I’ve experienced in years.
…oh, you’re still here, still in need of some convincing? What more do you need to know? The gameplay? It’s an absolutely ingenious system, one that’s initially daunting, but upon learning it, you’re shocked that other games haven’t used before. You have eight elements, each one mapped to a specific key. To cast a spell, you can press up to five elements to create a combination. You can either cast that combo regularly, cast it on yourself, cast it as an area of effect (AOE) spell, or enchant your sword. The possibilities for combinations are nigh-endless, and since the different methods of casting the spell actually do different things, it only adds to the mind-bogglingly ridiculous amount of spells that you can cast.
Want a beam that’ll heal people, yet simultaneously set them on fire? You can do that. Want a hilariously impractical shield of adorably tiny little rainclouds? That’s in here too. Want to be a Squirtle or a Gyarados? You can cast a steam beam to scald enemies. The combat is just handled exquisitely; not only do certain enemies have weaknesses to certain elements, you can create your own weaknesses. See an enemy that’s particularly strong, and you want to do more damage to it with your lightning beam? Power your attack up by drenching the beast in water, and then hit him with the lightning. Magicka is perhaps the first game of its kind where you pretty much have complete carte blanche with your combat and powers. Of course, you’re going to have two or three main spells to rely on, but the nigh-complete freedom you have is refreshing, and something that’s often promised and under-delivered by most developers these days. Considering the amount of sadistic, power-hungry cackling I find myself constantly doing while playing, perhaps that’s for the best.
Fair warning: you will find yourself doing a lot of that. Laughing, I mean. The story in the game isn’t exactly original, but it is by far the funniest game I’ve played in years. The humor is genuinely charming, and while Magicka is set in a Norse environment, the world is absolutely littered with major contemporary nerd culture references left and right. Example: in Chapter 5 you’ll find a knife that, when equipped, gives you the ability to perpetually run faster. The name of the weapon? The Knife of Counter-Striking. In that very same Chapter, there’s an achievement you can get called “This is Magicka!”, which is completed by pushing a soldier into a suspiciously familiar round pit. It’s like that ALL game; even the very last lines of dialogue from the final boss are lifted straight from an Internet meme. Magicka may get difficult towards the end, but the truly laugh-out-loud moments and ambitious gameplay combine to form an experience that never wears thin.
I haven’t even touched on the co-op yet either, which is proof positive that the most fun you can have in a game is when you’re not really playing the game at all. It’s like New Super Mario Bros Wii, except you can revive your buddies ASAP so you can kill them again just as fast. Co-op is failure personified, where you think up some absolutely brilliant team strategies that end up devolving into hilarious, tears-streaming-down-your-eyes chaos. You come up with strategies like, say, one person casts Rain, and another person casts a Thunderbolt, so the enemy/boss gets dealt extra damage. What you forget is, Thunderbolt attacks someone randomly, so more often than not your intended target remains unscathed while a raging Thunderbolt strikes your friend from the heavens and reduces him into nothing more than a red stain on the ground. It’s a big fat epic fail, but it’s also one of those moments where you start heaving because you’ve exhausted all your air laughing so hard.
Really, I could give endless examples of these kinds of incidents, but it’s all going to lead up to one simple point: if you are a true-to-heart fan of creative, ambitious videogames, you have to buy Magicka. I know a lot of other sites have docked a few points because of the bugginess of the single player and the straight up unplayability of the co-op, but as of this writing, the game is impressively stable, with very few, if any, crashed games in online, and no bugs in the single player whatsoever. While I do understand that that doesn’t excuse developer Arrowhead Studios from releasing a broken game at retail, their unending support and devotion to their rampant fanbase makes it easy to forgive them. They promised a patch every 24 hours until the game was more or less fixed for everyone, and they kept that promise, and even still they’re planning on releasing more patches, just to add more customizability for all the players. That such a small boutique studio could give the kind of 24-hour attention that even big-name studios don’t is absolutely commendable, and completely redeems their image to me.
Ultimately, there’s always a game that comes out every year that really reminds me why I love playing video games, and why I’m proud to say I’m part of an industry that’s still labeled immature and childish by a great many. I’m not ashamed to say Magicka is that game for me this year. Buy it, love it, and embrace it. At a scant price of $9.99, there really is no reason to not buy it.
Oh, and play co-op with me, so I can asplode you with mines as soon as I revive you.