By: Jeff Cater
Magicka 2 by Paradox Interactive has cast itself into the co-op scene on the PlayStation 4, drawing more acolytes to the cult established firmly by its predecessor. It both retains and enhances the feel, difficulty and hilarity of Magicka, and provides a challenging co-op experience for veterans and newbies alike.
This is where Magicka 2 will draw you in or push you far, far away (maybe even in a galaxy). As a top-down isometric shooter of sorts, there are a few givens. Your thumb sticks move your wizard and aim your shots, so everything is fine and tight there. Things get (intentionally) tricky and difficult when it comes to spell casting.
Each of your face buttons are bound to an element, with more elements being available by holding down the L1 button. Once you’ve gathered certain elements, represented by floating orbs of light orbiting your character, you may infuse your melee weapon with the powers by pressing R2. You may also cast spells on or around yourself by using R1 or L2, respectively. With how fast the difficulty ramps, Magicka 2 expects you to be a pro caster very early on.
With enough practice, however, you’ll become a wizard capable of fending off the most intimidating of creatures, but that level of mastery only comes after much practice and familiarization with each spell characteristic. Attempting to keep track of what button does what can be discouraging at first, , but you’ll fall into a rhythm of lighting fire bolts and death rays soon enough.
Magicka 2 retains the visual style of the original game, but does bring add many beautiful and awesome spell effects. Complementing the humor of the game world, the visuals are generally rounded, bouncy feeling and very lush. Even underground caverns and orc camps just feel like you could have a picnic if it weren’t for the hordes of freeze beetles bearing down on you.
The animation of you and your friends’ wizards are smooth and hilarious, as are any of the NPC or monster characters, with comically exaggerated expressions splashed over everyone. The spell effects are also very well done; fireballs plume out in a rounded flush, lightning snaps and crackles (and pops, even) violently as it cascades over waves of enemies, and the death ray sets a vibrant, purple beam of doom upon anyone it its way. Getting creative and mixing spell types will also yield impressive effects, one of my personal favorites being Death Lightning — I shouldn’t have to explain that one.
First of all, the sound is done very well. Explosions and zaps and all of that is great, but the absolute highlight was the voice acting. Yes, I know it’s a made up language. Yes, I know it sounds like everyone is the Swedish Chef. I don’t care, I was thrilled to come upon NPCs just to hear them babble and read the hilarious subtitles above their head. The musical score is good as well, but everything takes a back seat to all those damn babbling peasants.
Holy shit, this game gets tough early on. While the first few levels are perfectly solo-able, there’s a definite wall that you’ll run into in the earlier chapters of the game. While juggling spells and figuring out good and bad combinations (LIGHTNING WATER BAAAAAD), you’re also contending with unrelenting waves of enemies all with different weaknesses and immunities.
For instance, you’re expected to summon a water spell to turn a waterwheel to bring a gate down, but there’s a crab on the other side that keeps pushing the gate back up. So, you’ve got to activate lightning to arc over the gate and kill the crab. So, you activate your water to go back to the wheel, but holy shit a bunch of new enemies just spawned so let’s switch over to fire lightning to take care of the… what the hell!?! The gate is all the way back up? So, switch back to water and run over to the waterwheel; you get the picture.
What that simply means is that Magicka 2 is very heavily dependent on having co-wizards hanging out with you. In case you don’t have any friends with the game, or a friend willing to learn the controls and hang out with you on the good ol’ couch, there is indeed matchmaking. It is a difficult task to play the story in it’s entirely consistently, because most matchmaking random players will just bail mid-mission or immediately after, so the storyline is somewhat hard to follow unless you’ve got a very dedicated group.
That being said, experimenting with the awesome spell system is very fun and rewarding to become proficient at, but put a bite-plate in so your molars aren’t ground to dust out of frustration as you figure out what to do.
It can be frustrating as hell sometimes, but Magicka 2 can offer an unparalleled level of fun when you and a couple of friends master the art of wizardry. If you’re up for the challenge, it’s quite a badass one to undertake. Plus, them Swedish Chef voices… Orn desh, dee born desh, de umn bork! bork! bork!