Paradox Con 2013 – Magicka: Wizards of the Square Tablet Preview

Developer: Ludosity / Publisher: Paradox Interactive / Platforms: iOS, Android

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The original Magicka was a beast when it came out in 2010, despite some technical issues at launch. It became Paradox Interactive’s highest selling game ever in a landslide, with two million units sold as of last week. It’s blend of hilarious jokes and madcap gameplay had the magical heroes of the game become iconic figures in the PC gaming scene.

As any sane company would do, Paradox made the decision to bring the franchise to more platforms, announcing Magicka: Wizards of the Square Tablet at last week’s Paradox Con in Reykjavik, Iceland. As the title would imply, this is a tablet-exclusive Magicka, and a game that takes the franchise in a bit of a new direction, even if it maintains the series’ ridiculous humor and gameplay vision.

You begin by selecting a colored mage and equipping some gear (assuming you’ve bought any with the in-game currency). Naturally, as the red mage, I chose a hot dog on the end of a fork. You and up to three other players can then spellcast your way through the game’s linear levels.

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You will notice that the game has shifted visual styles from its PC big brother; this new Magicka has taken pages from the Castle Crashers playbook, both in its lush 2D visual style, and also its side-scrolling beat-em-up design. The touch controls, too, are a characteristic of this bold new platform. Like in the original Magicka, you combine elements to cast custom spells, this time by tapping icons at the bottom of the screen in particular sequences, and then either tapping enemies or keeping your finger pressed to the screen to fire beams of magical energy.

Different combinations of powers will exploit different weaknesses or provide buffs or debuffs to your target. For example, casting a water spell will soak an enemy, which means lightning spells will do more damage. Conversely, a soaked enemy who gets hit with fire loses the soaked status because he’s been dried up. The interplay between which spells you need to cast and your finger dexterity is but one of the many choices you have to make in split-seconds, tying your brain into knots.

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 Of course, it wouldn’t be a Magicka game without the ability to destroy your teammates, and of course the game actively encourages it. Hitting your partner with a blast of lightning as he’s winding up for a huge fireball spell he’s probably about to hurl at you is almost more fun than playing the actual game. Even if you aren’t a sadistic bastard, you’ll probably still end up killing your friends as they walk between you and your target while you’ve got a level four ice spell crackling out of your fingertips. Thankfully everyone will have the power to revive their comrades, but it’s almost more fun to let that player stay a corpse as he’s yelling at you from across the table.

Thankfully, the game will be cross-platform between Android and iPad, so even the most fervent of Apple haters (do you hear me Lawrence?!) will be able to get into a game. The game will cost you $2 once it’s out, and while Paradox promises you can earn the in-game currency to purchase gear and power-ups, it will also feature microtransactions.

Wizards of the Square Tablet was a lot of fun, and should do really well with the mobile tablet crowd thanks to its lack of respect for teamwork and sportsmanship. Look for the game later this year.

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