Month: November 2018

Sorcery!

Sorcery!

An adaptation of a gamebook tetralogy, Sorcery! is an episodic release in all but name, so its four constituents must be additionally judged as a single, complete entity. In that regard, it’s a fascinating experience that alternates between highly engaging and ultimately disappointing. I’d actually like to see a AAA studio tackle this material, as that may be the only way to do justice to such an open-ended premise. As it stands, we have a product that almost reaches greatness but always stops at the last moment.

The main problem is that Sorcery! often forgets to take advantage of its new status as a video game. The standout feature here is the magic system, wherein spells are crafted from three letters indicated by the current alignment of stars, forcing you to make do with what stars are available in a given situation. It sounds awesome until you realize that your options are entirely scripted. Furthermore, the fitting but grotesque artwork is taken directly from the gamebooks, and the immersive audio is barely utilized. Finally, players are assisted by a sprit guide or patron deity depending on their actions, but what each does and how to earn their favour is entirely hidden information.

The combat system is a clever twist on rock-paper-scissors that’s always enjoyable, even if its minimal evolution and chance elements drag it down. Relatedly, you’re given the ability to rewind your previous decisions, which I’d advise treating as an integral mechanic, because whether most actions will be beneficial is anyone’s guess. This also ties in to the series’ unexpectedly compelling plot, whose second half in particular embraces time travel as its central pillar. It too falls apart by the end, however, thanks to half-hearted twists and a tendency to point out its own enormous holes.

As for the individual releases, Part 1: The Shamutanti Hills is the least representative of the final product, with a short, more linear setting and clichéd plot. Part 2: Kharé – The Cityport of Traps is where it most settles in, opening up both the world and mechanics and featuring an interesting self-contained story. Part 3: The Seven Serpents is probably the most creative of the four, but it also marked the point where the static gameplay started to overstay its welcome, and its finale was astoundingly anticlimactic. The final chapter, The Crown of Kings, simply continued that trend with its own problematic narrative and annoying new rewind mechanic.

Guacamelee! 2

Guacamelee! 2

A constant sense of déjà vu and a massive spike in annoying chicken noises slightly detract from this otherwise excellent sequel. Everything about the original Guacamelee! has been maintained here, including its quality. There’s the same tightly constructed Metroidvania level design, the same frenetic beat ‘em up combat, the same absolutely perfect controls, the same sassy humour, and the same weirdly serious story that doesn’t really mesh with everything else. There are a few fluctuations – the striking but messy background art is even messier now, while the co-op has been improved with regards to polarity-switching. Overall though, everything you need to know about Guacamelee! 2 is in its title, and that’s no insult.