Review: Magicka 2: Special Edition (PS4)

magicka-2-special-edition-review-banner

Title: Magicka 2: Special Edition
Format: PlayStation Network Download (2.1 GB)
Release Date: May 26, 2015
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Developer: Pieces Interactive
Original MSRP: $19.99 (US), €19.99 (EU), £15.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 16
Magicka 2: Special Edition is also available on PC.
The PlayStation 4 download version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Editor’s Note:
Magicka 2: Special Edition comes equipped with the Cultist and Warlord set of robes, weapons, and staffs as well as the Vlad PS4 theme.
Standard Edition Pricing: $14.99 (US), €14.99 (EU), £11.99 (UK)

MAGICKA® 2_20150701053716 MAGICKA® 2_20150701043135

Ever since reading most of the Discworld series of books by Terry Pratchett all those years ago I’ve dreamed and imagined what being a wizard would be like. Now quarter of a decade later I get to play a game where I realise those dreams and get to bring some friends along for the journey. My main question is, how hard can it really be?

Gameplay:
So begins my journey to become the most powerful wizard mankind has ever seen and no-one can stop me. After a short and amusing introduction I began my first ever game of Magicka 2. I quickly found out that almost everything can and will try to kill my poor little wizard and I fail to last more than five minutes before succumbing to a gruesome death. Luckily there is a training dummy named Timmy with a penchant for physical abuse and some books with the techniques to craft Magick (that isn’t a typo) that teach me about the spells and controls in the game during a prologue chapter.

With the exception of an occasional hidden area, you can’t wander too far off so you’ll simply follow a pretty linear path to the right. The fear of getting lost isn’t high on the dangers list, however, being burned, frozen, drowned, electrocuted, impaled, and knocked into an abyss are among the top dangers and that’s just from my own co-op friends. You can have up to three local or online players join you in the adventure, but more on that later. I wanted to experience the game on my own, as many players don’t like playing with other people.

MAGICKA® 2_20150701050941 MAGICKA® 2_20150701190807

The prologue level does a decent job of explaining the controls and spell casting techniques you’ll have to master if you want to get anywhere in this game. I quickly found the levels get significantly harder. I struggled to beat the first level and at times found the experience quite daunting, especially in the first hour or so. It isn’t so much that the enemies are tough but knowing how best to defeat them is something you’ll have to figure out on your own.

As I progressed through the game my confidence grew and my skills at performing various spells got notably better, however the amount of enemies attacking me at any one time also grew along with the types of enemy. It again became frustrating as I was often overwhelmed with enemies such as electrified Orcs and gigantic venomous crabs that ripped my character to shreds.

… Difficulty hurts the single player experience …
I gave up trying to complete the infuriatingly difficult game on my own and restarted the adventure with my wife. Frustration turns into laughter as the odds even out and the onslaught is generally easier to deal with. When a player is killed another player can press down on the directional pad to revive their fallen friend. This means the deaths aren’t so exasperating. My only gripe is that a player will occasionally respawn on the wrong side of a locked gate or right in the middle of a group of enemies making them almost useless.

Difficulty hurts the single player experience a little too much for my liking as does the respawn locations. Regardless of that, I really enjoy this game. Loads of secret areas, collectables, unlockables, and funny moments mean I could play this game over and over again. I laughed out loud at several movie inspired jokes and giggled as I beat an annoying online player to death with a giant carrot.

MAGICKA® 2_20150701141027 MAGICKA® 2_20150701052404

I’m getting slightly ahead of myself and should mention the spells which play a massive part in Magicka 2, hence the name. There are eight different spells that include fire, ice, water, earth, death, life, and more. Certain spells can be assigned to the directional pad which can be quickly performed with a simple button press, these use up focus which means you’ll have to wait a short time as they cool down to be able to use one of those spells again. The amount of time for the focus to build is also affected by the type of Magick and amount of players, the more running around on-screen, the longer it takes to build. You can avoid the need for waiting for the focus to build if you can remember the actual spell combination and how to unleash it.

… Magicka 2 has layer upon layer of depth …
The wife and I liked using the death ray with a hint of fire as these can be combined to create a more powerful beam if angled correctly. However too much of an angle toward each other and the force is sent hurtling back toward the wizards and catapults them into the air. We also found that wet wizards and electricity are a bad combination for a spell and even queuing it up causes severe damage to the spell caster. Unless of course one wizard is spraying the harmless water on the enemies whilst another unleashes a lightning storm on the soaking creatures.

Spell experimentation pays dividends as well as how you cast them. As I mentioned before, up to five spells can be queued-up and then either unleashed around the wizard or assigned to your stave, sword, or even absorbed by the player, all of which has a different outcome. If the wizard absorbs the wrong spells it can hurt them but certain combinations create wards that protect the pointy hooded fellows and even heal them if attacked with a corresponding Magick. After trying out many different attacks I found that a focused North Wind Blast slows and hurts any enemies in its path and quickly queuing-up a Death and Water Spell combination to fire through the frozen wall of wind can seriously damage a huge group of frozen enemies.

MAGICKA® 2_20150701141054 MAGICKA® 2_20150703194634

The assortment of weapons, staves, robes, and Magicks that you amass does help with the difficulty when revisiting earlier levels on your own. Frequently spaced out checkpoints and infinite continues ease the pain of death. There is always a strong attack and defence against every enemy type and when you figure out how to cast wards and mine spells you’ll realise that Magicka 2 has layer upon layer of depth.

I’m glad Pieces Interactive didn’t make Magicka 2 easier for this coddled generation with all the spells laid out for you to gorge on or worst still, drip fed throughout the game. You have to find them on your own or have a friend show you, like the good-old-days. I also like the optional challenge and trial modes that offer arena style gameplay to unlock more items and artefacts. The latter of which I can’t believe I almost forgot to mention. Artefacts can be collected throughout every game mode and can be equipped to a custom game difficulty mode to alter it in a variety of ways, everything from more or less fire damage, various video modes and even a canned laughter track.

… every enemy and innocent bystander can be killed …
At this point in most of my reviews I like to mention how good or bad the Remote Play option is and when it comes to Magicka 2 on the PS Vita I can safely write that it is both good and bad. Good in that I can play it almost the same on the Vita as on the big screen. Bad when concerning the lack of L2 and R2 triggers means those controls are assigned to the rear touch. This never feels as good and precise on the little handheld.

MAGICKA® 2_20150704195310 MAGICKA® 2_20150706175743

Visuals:
A charming and vibrantly colourful world lends a playful feeling to the death and destruction that lies ahead. I’m a newbie when it comes to the world of Magicka and didn’t know what I was getting myself into. A brief and slightly strange trailer on the PlayStation Store doesn’t do this game justice. It fails to purvey the comedy and charm that fills every inch of the game. It neglects to fully point out the customization and co-operative fun that can be had.

I’m not quite sure why the animals in the game are wooden figures, maybe it was explained in the first game or could it be because the menu and level select screen appears to be a gigantic tabletop board game. Regardless of their wooden exterior they still explode in a bloody mess when struck.

Magicka 2 is a cute and colorful bloodbath spread over nine unique chapters that include an adorable forest and village area to an icy mountain. Each with their own dangers and enemy types to learn and master. When I say bloodbath I mean just that, every enemy and innocent bystander can be killed in a variety of macabre ways resulting in a gruesome blood stained mess, usually with a few limbs left behind that you can kick about. It really stands out when a large group of Orcs are blown to smithereens in a snow-covered forest. It isn’t all blood and guts and in between the frequent battles it does look peaceful and serene.

MAGICKA® 2_20150701055201 MAGICKA® 2_20150701055218

Audio:
From Vlad the Vampire to villagers screams the voice work does a great job of setting the mood even if I can’t understand their Nordic tongue.. An uplifting orchestral score accompanies our hooded travellers on their journey and sounds great. It can even be heard blasting through an era-jumping 80’s boombox that lays on a beach next to a towel and sun umbrella.

… you’ll definitely get your money’s worth …
Online/Multiplayer:
The multiplayer aspect of this game is a must if you want to stand any chance of success in Magicka 2. Seeing as friendly-fire is always on it can be hectic and confusing if no-one is communicating and chaos often ensues during some of the fierce battles. You can play any mode with up to four players either sat next to you, online or a combination of both.

If you drop into someone else’s adventure they could decide to play any level that they’ve already unlocked, even if you have not. This results in you being unable to keep any collectables you find and spoiling the story and flow of the game so I would advise playing with friends and/or hosting the game instead. At least until you’ve completed it yourself.

Every online game I played was perfect and I didn’t notice any bugs or issues usually associated with these kind of games. As the host you can kick any players you wish and set up a private session as well as send out invites. I did find it strange that only the host can adjust everyone’s equipment and they themselves cannot.

MAGICKA® 2_20150701134025 MAGICKA® 2_20150707033810

Conclusion:
A daunting prospect of learning so many spell combinations can make Magicka 2 an extensive game to master. Throw in a difficulty curve that begs for two or more players and this could be a frustrating and devilishly hard adventure if you embark on your own. There are so many secrets to find, spells to master, and so much humor in Magicka 2 you’ll definitely get your money’s worth. I’m glad the multiplayer component works so well and that you can have up to four players in any mode throughout the game as the more people you have the easier and funnier it often becomes.

I love that Magicka 2 gives you the ability to cast any spell from the beginning, you just have to figure them out, remember them, and know what works best against the many enemies blocking your path to rescue the girl and save the world.

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook