Is your copy of Super Smash Bros getting a bit worn out? Looking for a game to play with the kids that you’ll all enjoy? Well, you’re in luck. From now on, once a month I’ll be recommending games for you to play with family, friends, significant others, and rivals. I’ll be steering clear of the famous family gaming titles like those that come from Nintendo, giving you a taste of lesser known games to consider for quality time with your kids.
Magicka is, on the surface, a very silly game about a couple of wizards beating up goblins, druids, trolls, and a smattering of less-traditional fantasy foes yanked from Norse mythology. Self-aware pokes at video game tropes abound, and the sparse stable of supporting characters babble at you in a mixture of Swedish, English, and gibberish. Though you are technically saving the world, no one takes it very seriously.
One of the memorable things about Magicka is the game’s spellcasting system. It’s expansive, inspired, and sort of hysterical. Both players are wizards who can channel the energies of the usual elemental forces, plus a few odd ones like “life” and “arcane.”
Combining these elements to mix and match effects is how you cast spells. For example, combining earth and fire creates a fireball. All you have to do is remember what elements you need for which spell, and what sequence to channel them up in. But that’s easier said than done while being chased by bloodthirsty orcs. There are other things to watch out for, too. Opposing elements (such as fire and cold) cancel each other out and make the spell fizzle.
But fizzling spells are often the least of your worries. Channeling electricity while your character is wet will give you a nasty shock. And if beams of opposing elements cross, they explode, Ghostbusters-style. On top of that, friendly fire is impossible to turn off.
In my experience playing Magicka with a friend, a game session tended to go like this. We arrived in an area and were attacked by a small group of goblins. I panicked, forgot my spells, and was chased in a wide loop around the area. While trying to barbecue my pursuers, my wizard companion set me on fire. The blast of water he used to put me out also knocked me off a nearby cliff, killing me.
Death isn’t an enduring problem, though. Resurrection is just a few channeled elements away. It’s one of the easiest spells in the game, meaning the frustration of being knocked out of the game for long periods of time isn’t likely to crop up here.
Magicka is a silly, surprisingly deep game that encourages experimentation and slapstick chaos between players. If you or kids like to be wizards—and really, who doesn’t?—Magicka is fun way to spend some time together. And if you want more wizardry, Magicka 2 was recently released. Both games are available on PC.