Every now and again, a game creeps up on us and appears in the release schedule as if by magic. A lack of pre-release attention usually signifies the worst — but occasionally, as in the case of Magicka, the PC gaming community turns what was unknown into somewhat of an online hit. So, what’s all the fuss about?

Upon first glance, Magicka appears as a dungeon-crawling RPG — but, as Mummy might say, “you should never judge a book by it’s cover. What we have here is something quite different. Behind the fantasy world and isometric viewpoint, is a much more linear, action -adventure game. Dismissing the looting, in-depth inventories and the gathering of quests in return for fast-paced combat and big boss battles. The very essence of Magicka is fresh and different, which goes some way toward explaining it’s mass appeal.

The player takes on the role of a faceless wizard, who’s been tasked with the job of saving the world from an evil sorcerer — he’s unleashed all types of nasty creatures and critters upon the villagers, and the player must make their way through each level, fending off giant spiders, goblins and trolls along the way. Which brings us to Magickas most interesting feature, its combat mechanic.

Players are given eight elements to work with, bound to the WASD and ASDF keys. Elements range from earth and water, to cold and arcane — you can combine up to 5 of these at any time, creating a huge mixture of different spells. For example, combining earth and fire conjures up a fireball, or, mixing arcane, lighting and fire will unleash an electrifyingly fiery death-beam. The possibilities are endless. You can also cast spells upon yourself or the environment — allowing for you to self-heal, dry your clothes or perhaps freeze a body of water to make it passable — because “everybody knows that wizards can’t swim”, apparently. Which is just one of many humorous comments made throughout the game, because of which, you’ll find yourself actually wanting to speak with villagers and other NPCs, despite their Swedish, subtitled dialogue.

It’s all fun stuff, while playing co-operatively with friends adds even more to this. What I will say, though, is that while the range of spells and abilities on offer make for some very unique and fast-paced combat — it can all be a little overwhelming at times. As there can be up to 6 button presses, plus the occasional holding of you shift key, it often feels a little like a button-bashing competition when there are a lot of enemies on screen. This frequently caused me to heal enemies or set myself on fire — it’s also not helped that the system doesn’t remember your last spell. For example, you can’t cast the same spell three times over with reloading the elements each time, causing more keyboard-mashing than might be necessary.

Another thing that most be touched upon is the rather large number of bugs that were present at release. Many players were experiencing issues playing with friends or game crashes that, for me, made even playing alone rather frustrating. However, I’d urge you not to be put off, Arrowhead have done an amazing job since launch. They’ve been working around the clock and have released a series of patches. My game now runs perfectly in both online and offline modes — so the bugs appear as a bit of a non-issue now.

Rating: 4/5
With any technical issues fixed and the controls becoming easier to work with over time, Magicka is ultimately left to leak its charm upon players with very little to complain about. Here’s an amazing title, with a new and distinct game mechanic at its heart — and it all comes delivered to your hard drive at a very great price. Magicka justifies its features and simplicity by poking fun at itself, and the genre that its based upon. You’ll be laughing at the dialogue, gasping throughout the difficult boss battles and occasionally cursing when you set yourself alight when you meant to heal.