By Phil Schipper / August 11th, 2016
|Title||Megamagic: Wizards of the Neon Age|
|Release Date||April 20, 2016|
What do I say about Megamagic: Wizards of the Neon Age? It’s trying so hard to spoof 80’s cartoons, but it’s also an action game that dabbles in real-time strategy. In short, Megamagic is a little strange. Let’s see why.
The story begins when a powerful wizard puts his two sons in the care of their uncle, passing his staff and magic companion, Fum, on to them. Years later, one of the sons goes off to take his final exam as a wizard–but the examiner wants Fum for himself. The young wizard, Phoban, refuses, and ends up run out of town. Between zombies, punks, and the Techno Rangers, there’s a lot to contend with… but Phoban and Fum have to do their best.
There are two main ways of dealing with those threats: spells and grims. Spells range from a simple shooting attack (which you’ll have to use a lot) to big gusts of wind, traps, or helpful totems. Grims are monsters that you’ve encountered, defeated and studied enough to summon them for yourself. You can command them to converge on certain points or use their special attacks, but usually you’ll be too busy with spells to worry about them much. It is possible to connect a controller and have other players control grims directly, though–a cool, if limited, feature.
Besides the most basic spells, the rest are sorted into four categories, which also correspond to four categories of grim. If you focus on just one category for a while, a special gauge will fill up. Assuming you’ve trained in that category (during special side missions), you can unleash its power for a while, powering up any spells and grims that go with it. This is pretty handy during smaller boss fights or in tight spots–during the larger boss battles, you’ll transform into Phoborn, who automatically has the same boosts to every spell and grim.
You probably won’t think about it that much, though, in all the spell-slinging action. Often, the game’s pace and the need to quickly shoot and dodge will prevent you from thinking of any advanced tactics. Considering that Megamagic advertises itself as part-strategy game, I find that a slight problem. Yes, there is definitely strategy when you select the list of spells and grims to take with you, but you can only do that at special locations. Sometimes, if you get stuck at one point, you’ll have to redo previous things if you want to try a new build.
It’s not necessarily all combat all the time, though. Puzzles, mazes and escape sequences come into play sometimes, too. Early on, you’ll find puzzles where you have to summon a grim to a point where Phoban can’t get to, for example. Other times, you might have to shoot switches for a variety of effects, or chase down an escaping enemy. These parts do change up the pace of the game, but later on, you’ll find that they become about speed just like everything else is. I found myself missing the chance to be thoughtful about the way I play. Plus, if you see one mechanic in an area, it often won’t ever come up again.
It’s also pretty easy to get lost. Sometimes it’s a matter of not knowing what you need to do next; more often, though, it’s because you’re expected to remember your way around the weird landscapes of Megamagic‘s isometric world. A handy map of the world would fix this. At times you’ll have a guidance arrow that points you in the general direction, but between the mazelike areas and the amount of time that it doesn’t show up, that feature isn’t very helpful.
I wish I could say that the story is a lot better, but it consists mostly of a series of overblown cartoon cliches, followed by the characters acknowledging how bad those moments are. I understand that the developers were trying to poke fun at their source material, but it could have been done better. There are some cool moments, but they generally come across as pretty predictable. Actually, that’s not always true–every once in a while, a plot point comes in that just doesn’t make much sense at all.
There is a little bit of hope in the graphics and sound department. That’s because it sells the 80’s and 90’s cartoon vibe pretty well. The resolution is up to modern standards, but the spells, the transformations into cheesy costumes, and the rocking synthesizers all have a way of bringing you back to the old days. If that’s what you’re here for, Megamagic: Wizards of the Neon Age delivers.
Altogether, this game is pretty flawed, but not completely broken. It has its good points, but its problems often get in the way. I don’t regret the 15 hours I put into this game. If you like the aesthetic it’s trying to recapture and enjoy thinking on your feet, I’d say that Megamagic is definitely for you, but it’s definitely not for everyone. Interested? For $14.99 USD, you can get it on Steam.
Review copy supplied by the publisher.