720940_largerI expected to play Magicka [$1.99] lying on the couch with my feet up, slowly tapping the iPad in relaxing rhythms. Instead I found myself sitting-up, hunched over like a mad scientist franticly rapping on a touch-screen. I never expected to be as engaged as I would be, nor as impacted by its combat system. I did, though, expect this game to be great.

At least I got that one right.

Up to 4 players can adventure, as merry-men of magic, through Wizards of the Square Tablet’s comic-mischief story-beats. Its writing is as charming as its voice-acting and never misses an opportunity to crack a joke or make a few good references. More importantly, the story is paced perfectly for those using their iPad on the go, and never loses its charm because of it.

Magicka’s story weaves in-between 2D battle scenarios where the player – or players – is tasked to kill enemies, avoid and set traps, slay giant bosses, fight off hordes of ghouls, or simply survive. To do this one must learn the craft of Magicka; mixing and matching between 7 elements – earth, fire, water, shield, life, cold and lightning - to cast a spell. It’s up to the player to evaluate each battle's situation and cast the most effective attacks and defenses possible.

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These elements line the bottom of the display and, when tapped, queue up your wizards attack. Up to 4 elements can be combined, in the queue, to cast a spell. Moving your wizard about the battlefield is as simple as tapping. While this control scheme remains similar to other iOS action-RPGs, the speed at which the player inputs commands is not. Here I found myself franticly tapping every inch of my retina display often, struggling to stay alive in some of the most enjoyable yet panic-inducing moments of combat. And I loved every minute of it.

Much of my panic stemmed from a lack of knowledge in the arts of spell crafting. Magicka isn’t holding your hand during battle with on-screen spell lists, instead forcing the player to test their memory with a long list of possible spell combinations. While a handy-dandy spell book menu is a simple tap away - with tons of tips, enemy data, spell combinations, etc. – I strayed from using it, to bask in the challenges Magicka lay before me.  As multiple elemental-powered enemies stumble on screen it becomes difficult keeping composure, often testing your ability to avoid wrongly queueing up a spell or just simply forgetting a combination.

mzl.uzzxpvczThere’s a lot to micro-manage during times of blood in Wizards of the Square Tablet, and that’s one reason I enjoyed its battles so much. Combat wasn’t simply a reactionary challenge but also a mental one. Where I stood on the battlefield, which element I had cast upon myself, which elements my enemies were weakest to, and where traps sat is only the beginning. If franticly managing all that sounds like a daunting-task, Magicka might not be your witches’ brew of choice on the App Store.

Combining random elements and revealing the secrets of your spell book is satisfying and fun, but even more so during co-op campaign sessions. Coordinating battle strategies and playing specific roles during combat with friends revealed multiplayer to be the mode of choice for me. When all 4 wizards are working in conjunction with another the results are glorious, with possibilities of attack combinations multiplying four-fold. And don’t worry about co-op being a cakewalk with Quadra-wizards; the difficulty seems to ramp-up dynamically based on how many partners are with you.

Ludosity did a fine-job reimagining Magicka for iPad, and left behind nothing but minor gripes from me; all of which the game itself transcends. Lack of a quick-restart, Game Center, and the occasional uncontrollable enemy-clutter during battle are the only issues I had with Wizards of the Square Tablet, and rarely added enough frustration to note here.

Magicka isn’t for everyone - especially if you prefer not testing your reaction-time at lightning speeds during combat scenarios - but it’s exactly what I wanted in a real-time action-RPG on iPad. It provides enough entertaining content without ever over-staying its welcome or feeling repetitive. More importantly, it plays nearly flawlessly, never leaving the player stumbling over poor controls even during the most chaotic of combat situations. If you’ve been looking to drop a little spell crafting, enemy-splatting charm onto your iPad, look no further than Magicka: Wizards of the Square Tablet. 

TouchArcade Rating

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  • riggysmalls

    I dl'ed this and totally forgot about it within a day. Thanks for the reminder that I need to play it again! :)

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  • JJE McManus

    I liked everything about this game except the controls, specifically the elements bar.
    Far too many miss hits even when I had memorized key spells. It's simple button positioning but it detracted from my enjoyment of the game. Knowing what I wanted to do, say teleport, and missing the combo while I was getting swarmed got to be too big a chore. Great game otherwise. Super graphics, wonderful effects and a twisted story. But it needs alternate control schemes.

  • Endscrypt

    Agreed the control scheme could be better (don't know how myself?) but It would be nice if there we're other ways of pulling of set-spells.

  • Qualitybeats

    Thanks everyone for reading!
    I didn't find the scheme of the controls the issue but rather my lack of ability to focus, and keep composure, during hectic moments the problem. Which actually isn't much a problem for me because I like to be challenged.
    To each their own. :)

  • Morgan01

    When using an iPad, you are generally holding it in both hands. The control scheme would have been less obtrusive if they had just lined the elemental buttons along one side, or split between both sides. It's a more natural position when holding.

    • Qualitybeats

      I don't hold my iPad. My cover/case has an adjustable lean and I rest it on a surface. That's how I play everything and how I assumed most people are playing.

      Sorry it doesn't feel right for those of you. Hopefully you'll get an update? Be sure to review the game in the App Store and address your complaints. It usually helps both parties.

      • JJE McManus

        That's the blessing/curse of tablets isn't it? It's very flexible as to how you interact with it. I like landscape with hands to either side while I slouch on the couch. I didn't find playing to be that big a readjustment but a lap isn't a solid surface like a table. Buttons on either side could be interesting. Thumb combos.

  • deeeexO

    Great Review!

  • worldcitizen1919

    I deleted it. I also envisaged lying down playing this with my feet up. Disappointing.

  • Espekayen

    Will this work on a first gen iPad?

    • sguerreiro

      Not really, I think. I've got it on a first gen iPad but it crashes a lot when you're fighting more then a couple monsters. Too bad because it's a great game, I'll have to wait 'till I change my device to play it.

      • Espekayen

        That's a shame. Thank you.

Magicka Reviewed by Jeffrey deMelo on . Rating: 4.5