Nitrome is a company with a very fascinating output, as they have roots as a Flash game company with a particular pixel art style, and Flash games have always felt to me like they straddle a line between being casual-friendly but also maintaining that appeal to core, dyed-in-the-wool gamers. As such, their mobile games definitely have that casual feel while still being ones that core gamers should enjoy as ‘real games’. And Magic Touch – Wizard for Hire (Free) is perhaps their best effort at being casual yet gamer-friendly. It’s got touch-friendly controls, but very quickly ramps up into an incredible challenge to face down.
The concept of Magic Touch is that you’re a wizard who must deal with a series of slowly-descending robot enemies trying to get him. The good news for you is that while you may be a magic-user, the law of gravity applies to us all, and these robots are fragile enough that a little bit of free-falling will cause them to break. Also, their balloon supplier made products that can be popped by magician’s spells, each one with a glyph on them that you have to draw in order to take out the enemy.
So, you draw each glyph with your finger to defeat each enemy before they hit the ground. It starts off pretty simple with a basic set of shapes, but the game starts introducing purple enemies with more complicated glyphs, a greater number of enemies, and ones with multiple balloons that you have to pop in quick sequence. Thankfully, enemies with the same glyph will have their balloons popped simultaneously from one glyph drawing. But good luck trying to pop an enemy with 7 balloons as several other ones are coming down.
Just needing to draw shapes is an accessible challenge, it’s something anyone can do. Having to do them in rapid succession? That takes some intestinal fortitude and quick reactions in order to score high. The game does offer treasure chests with multiple glyphs to break that also serve as nice slow-down moments to catch a brief breather. But even then, my 100 point score feels like a real achievement. The game does have a difficulty curve, but it quickly hits a ceiling where it’s just about surviving at the current pace.
For a game where drawing glyphs is the key to the game, and oh yeah, you have to do them at a hyperactive pace, thankfully the game is very good at recognizing hastily-scribbled glyphs. There’s a little bit of acclimation to figure out just how much you can fudge the glyphs, but eventually you’ll get pretty confident that you can make even the complicated purple ones. Some of the scribbles that have counted have been pretty outlandish.
It’s the powerup glyphs that will probably be the cause of your demise, however. These are difficult to execute and often are a bit picky as to how to pull them off. The problem is that you often get into situations where you have to risk a game over in order to use either a saved powerup or one that’s on the screen. It’s a funny irony, that these powerups will doom you if you try to use them. I’d like if perhaps you could just tap to use the powerups that you’ve got saved from the balloons that you popped by making several shapes in sequence. I already earned it, it should be a reward, not something I’m afraid to deploy!
The game uses a similar payment model as Platform Panic (Free) does, in that the game is free-to-play with ads and coins to spend on unlocking new powerups and backgrounds. You can pay to disable ads, and can buy more coins to unlock everything quicker. However, powerups don’t appear in greater number just because you’ve bought more of them, so while perhaps some of the more expensive ones are more effective, you can’t really pay to win. Also, drawing their glyphs is the great equalizer!
You can buy coins, with $6.99 for enough coins buy just about everything and nothing consumable to buy (no revives here, which seems like a logical inclusion). The game does support incentivized video ads where you get 1000 coins for watching a short ad, which is great for stockpiling coins as while you have to wait a couple minutes to watch a new ad, you can do so every couple games or so. It’s all a system with great balance between “game developers need to make money" and “players deserve a fair system to pay for their games."
I highly recommend Magic Touch. It’s something I’d recommend to casual players, as just tracing glyphs is simple enough for anyone to get into without needing to be intimidated by old-school platformer mechanics. I could see where Gunbrick ($5.99) could be difficult for someone who’s a more casual gamer could look intimidating to get into, this should be easy enough to get into. But it really offers a fast-paced intensity that I like from my games, it’s something where you can really get into it and marvel at how you escape tight situations, and realize “hey, this game is lasting a lot longer than normal, I’m doing really well." It’s a game that’s easy to learn, hard to do well at, and that’s what I want from my high score games. Plus, it has a Gunbrick cameo in one of the backgrounds you can buy, and I’m a sucker for cross-game cameos, so Magic Touch really, really does a lot well in my eyes.