At once simple and complex, Magicka 2 provides an exhilarating gaming experience bound by the limits of your ingenuity and dexterity. Then again, the same has been said of the first iteration, and this sequel, made by Pieces Interactive after the original developer Arrowhead Studios opted out, isn’t particularly different.
The conceit behind this cartoonish and fun mystical adventure is a permutation; or rather, combination. Eight different spells are fitted in up to five slots that can be cast four different ways (directional, circular, melee, and self) – so you do the math (of course, some spells negate each other).
What unfolds as an incredibly basic game becomes varied and exciting because of its combat possibilities. The eight elements – water, ice, fire, lightning, life, death, rock, and shield – are available immediately and, thankfully, they’re limitless. That’s what makes Magicka 2 so great and what holds it up in the end despite several flaws.
It’s not that the magic is the best thing about the game; it’s that it’s the only thing. Your wizards return as these cute Jawa-like figures, faceless spell casters that don coloured robes and scurry about the screen set against random monsters big and small. The story – what ridiculous story there is – picks up from the first game, but it will all matter little to most.
We live in a medieval, magical world where wizards have nearly entirely died off while beasts run amok, terrorizing peaceful villagers. The good guys and bad ones have funny accents and some incomprehensible speak, but it’s meant to be silly. And of course, if the townspeople annoy you, you can just light them on fire.
So much is interactive in Magicka 2. Fires can be put out with water, lakes and rivers can be frozen for traversal reasons, and you can heal innocent bystanders just as easily as you can kill them. While this is at times entertaining, it can also be frustrating. The game mostly but not always progresses based on just killing bad guys. That is, some encounters have solutions that lie in the background, and it’s rarely easy to tell what you can tinker with and what is just for decoration. The safe rule is that if bad guys keep on coming, look for something to soak, freeze or blow up.
Another thing to note is that Magicka 2 also gets pretty difficult in a challenging, competitive way. The ability to not only know a whole slew of valuable combinations, but inputting them as quickly as possible when the chaos sets in is necessary for success. Trust me, you should take the time to mess around at length with the seemingly infinite number of possibilities.
On PS4, the controls are relatively straightforward but require much memorization and finger dexterity. And when things get crazy, you’d better be ready. What’s more, each environment and each foe forces you to change your strategy. Some enemies need to be frozen, while others succumb to chaining lightning strikes. Donning a rock-water-death shield is valuable, too. Yet, still, strengths and weaknesses can change instantly. Just as an enemy can be subject to elemental shifts, so too can the wizard. Thus, you are forced to understand and accept the magic system lest you die endlessly in a series of futile attempts to get by a horde of goblins.
Then there are the Magicks, the special spells that are already created for the user, which have been slightly altered in this sequel. From Revive to Haste, from Dragon Fire to the very useful Emergency Teleport, Magicks can be employed by simply pressing a button on the directional pad. This leads to a cool down, and so learning the actual combination (heal plus lightning for Revive, for example) is key as it eliminates the delay.
Unfortunately, the game is bogged down by a couple of technical hiccups. For one, when in multiplayer mode where the users are sharing the screen, a cut-sequence will begin when the first wizard approaches a certain mark. If the second wizard isn’t close enough when the gameplay resumes, he may be cut off and die instantly.
Also, the game is too hard at times; enemies swarm and battles can quickly become less about acting and more about reacting. That is, running away from enemies quickly while trying to heal, revive a fallen wizard, put up a shield and attack. There are more than a few early battles where, if you aren’t especially prepared, you can go down fast. And some take plenty of time to feel out and plan for.
Nonetheless, the commendable magic system — one that doesn’t involve levelling up, unlocking spells, or the danger of exhaustion — allows the user virtually limitless possibilities, and replaying the game, which should take 8-10 hours, allows for some new unlocked items. The fun in Magicka 2, however, is in the magic.
This review is based on the PS4 version of the game, which was provided to us.
Powered by a compelling magic system that allows limitless possibilities, Magicka 2 offers imaginative excitement that's best enjoyed with others.