|Dev: Pieces Interactive|
|Pub: Paradox Interactive|
|Release: May 26th, 2015|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Sean Engemann
The short-lived peace in the world of Midgård is now threatened by an encroaching evil intent on extinguishing the prophet child imbued with stray magical energies from the recent Wizard Wars. All manner of foul creatures are pouring into civilized lands, corrupting all they touch. As an all-powerful Wizard commanding the elements, you must stare death in the face, charge into the seething mass of hate, tackle the dark, sinister... butterflies and cheese wedges? Okay, scratch all that serious overtone.
Magicka 2, like its predecessor, takes its calamity ridden story with a grain of salt and a pinch of sugar. Even the prologue I paraphrased above is delivered in a less than ominous tone by the vampiric narrator and mentor named Vlad, who expends a great deal of effort to conceal his undeath from public scrutiny. Pop culture invades much of the dialogue, referencing everything from Harry Potter to The Fast and the Furious, with a satiric script that lampoons all manner of social and political issues. In the midst of your spell casting concoctions, you're liable to harm fiends and portly peasants alike, with nary a worry of the moral repercussions.
If you're a veteran of the first game, you'll find all of the humorous, light-hearted atmosphere intact here. However, you'll also find the similarities don't end there, as much of the gameplay has seen little in the way of an evolution, for better or for worse. From an isometric perspective, you'll guide your faceless, colorfully robed Wizard through cutesy forests and dank dungeons, combining eight spell elementals: fire, water, earth, lightning, cold, life, death, and shield to dispatch foes, solve puzzles, and circumvent obstacles.
Full access to all the elements becomes available almost immediately into the prologue, with the daunting yet enticing lure to test out the many, many, MANY different combinations. Each spell can incorporate up to five elements, and can be cast either on yourself, as an area of effect, a projectile, or a weapon imbuement, each with varying effects. Thus you could use a single life element cast on yourself to heal, or fill it with five life elements for more potent healing. An earth element can launch a boulder, but pair earth with fire and you have a boulder that explodes on contact. Mix water and fire together and scalding steam spews forth, but mix water and cold and razor sharp icicles shoot out instead. And this is just a fraction of the hundreds of different combinations to test, with even more to discover when you play with up to three friends.
Magicka 2 is fine as a single-player romp, but it is absolutely intended to be played cooperatively. Teaming up to take down baddies, meddling with the townsfolk, and tackling obstacles together is a blast, oftentimes literally. With the game sporting perpetual friendly fire, you're liable to become victim of a stray (or not-so stray) lightning bolt or fire mine. Fortunately, you can quickly revive allies without penalty, and a loss of a continue occurs only when the entire party is wiped. With spells littering the screen, you'll stumble upon some clever co-op combinations. Shooting flames, for example, will heal an ally under the protection of a fire shield. Crossing a stream of life energy with a stream of death energy will create a dark matter explosion for sizable area damage. Things can get a little frenetic when dozens of enemies invade the tight quarters of the screen, but with the help of voice chat, relaying enemy vulnerabilities and useful spell combination may rekindle the friendship after you "accidentally" incinerated your teammate. Scurrying around the screen is pure hilarious mayhem, but it also showcases one of the game's biggest flaws - the camera.
The top down perspective is completely out of your control, and does a poor job keeping the action from straying off-screen. There is no dynamic zooming, so should you and an ally stretch opposite boundaries of the screen with a swarm of enemies bearing down, you'll like find skulls and bones surrounding your nameplate - the indication that you need to be revived. Movement, though generally lag free, does feel a bit sluggish, and occasionally my element choice wouldn't register immediately, causing me to fumble the spell sequence. That can be brutal when you're surrounded by enemies closing in for the kill.
Though there is no shortage of whimsy in the presentation, Magicka 2 shouldn't be preemptively dismissed as lacking in challenge. You'll barely be in the wilds of the first chapter before you're scrambling around trying to stay alive. The campaign is fairly linear throughout, though some cleverly hidden secret areas and interesting optional puzzles will keep you testing out your repertoire of spells. The Trials and Challenges provide waves of enemies in a single arena that increases the intensity and throws curve balls with different enemy make-ups as you progress.