February 2, 2011

Magicka is a ridiculous, broken game. It’s also a blast to play. 

In the game, you play as a wizard, combining elements and casting spells to get through levels of enemies. You can use the spells to make beams, heal yourself, build barriers and accidentally kill yourself and others. (That last one happens most often.) It’s a matter of trial and error for the most part beyond the basics the tutorial shows off, and that’s by design. “Hey, what does this do” is basically this game’s slogan. 

While playable with one player, Magicka is clearly designed for multiplayer, as up to four wizards can jump in, shooting spells, combining spells, killing their friends, stealing the cool objects they just picked up and shocking themselves to death trying to revive them again.

In addition to the random beam you come up with to shoot enemies with, there are spellbooks throughout the game that give you access to a special move, be it a powerful one-hit thunder bolt, a fiery wave or simply a strategic time-slowing spell. Watch out, though, because you can’t use lightning while you’re wet or it will hurt you and fizzle. To dry off, you have to use fire, which will hurt you. When you’re on fire, you’ll need to put it out with water, which will hurt you. Did we mention that the revive spell uses lightning? Yeah, you’ll accidentally kill yourself every so often when you don’t realize you were just rained on. 

The game is full of ridiculous geeky references, and it isn’t shy about them either. No, Magicka piles on references to Star Wars, Star Trek, 300, Lord of the Rings and even Rambo to the point where, when you meet a character named “Admiral Agnar,” you know what’s coming next.

Now for the bad part: Magicka launched as possibly the buggiest game in the history of the medium. The Arrowhead Studios team has been patching like mad, and it’s fairly stable at this point, but it’s still likely to crash at any moment, make characters float above buildings, get enemies stuck off-screen so you can’t continue and cut off online connections. So yeah, that’s a bit tough to deal with. In the week we’ve played it, though, it’s improved enough to be bearable, and the offline component has been in a playable state since day one. It might be something that will keep players away, though.

Do you like your games to be tightly-designed experiences with engrossing stories? Well… you may not like Magicka. If, on the other hand, you like games that just ooze fun while basically forgetting everything else, this one will make your day.

Score: 4/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.