Magicka 2, much like the PC hit Magicka before it, is a magic-'em-up which plays out in cartoony environments from a Diablo-esque isometric viewpoint. As the name suggests, it's all about magic(ka) and it packs a fun, surprisingly deep spell casting system that will see you conjuring up all manner of devastation.
Making the leap to consoles exclusively on the PlayStation 4, new developer Pieces Interactive has refined the formula established by Arrowhead Studios in the hopes of bringing the release's wizardry to an all-new audience. The title deals in laugh-out-loud irreverent humour, with Easter eggs that fans of shows like Game of Thrones will love – but the real fun on offer comes from adventuring with three other players in co-op.
You'll set out as a newbie mage who's thrown into the story mode after a short introduction from game guide Vlad – a character who's desperate to inform you that he is not a vampire. The plot sees you tasked with taking down an evil sorcerer, and saving a 'chosen one' born of a prophecy. The main campaign isn't huge and you can finish it in less than six hours with a pal or two – though it may take loners a little longer, as the difficulty ramps up to insane proportions in places, and you'll need the patience of a saint to persevere all the way.
Progress in the game is all about taking on a host of enemies using a combination of elements such as fire, water, earth, electric, spirit, and arcane. Selecting your elements with deft taps of the DualShock 4 controller will allow you to create basic spells like a flamethrower from your staff or advanced mixes such as an earth and arcane death rock bomb. It's a lot of fun playing around with the various combos at your disposal – and you'll need to spend some time getting the spells down, because in the heat of battle you'll have very little time to think.
In addition to your spells, you'll also have a sword, which you can enhance with temporary magic. You may, for example, electrify your rapier in order to inflict lightning damage with every strike – or turn it into a flaming death dealer with fire magic. This is fun, but the melee weapon is very much a last resort compared to your wizarding abilities.
Spells are used to solve problems, too: you'll need to freeze water to access certain areas, dry yourself off with a low power fire spell, or 'push' a magical boulder to break through certain barriers. The ability to cast magic on yourself allows for some tactical play, but even when you concoct a nifty healing water force field, it only lasts for a few seconds.
In addition to your mix-'n'-match spell elements, you can have four 'major magics' that allow you to, for example, move faster or create a fire-'n'-brimstone area of effect attack. These have a cool down period, however, so you'll need to use them tactically.
Along with the story campaign there are a series of Challenge arenas that pitch you – and your pals, if you have 'em – against waves of enemies in a 'survive as long as you can' dynamic. These are fun diversions and can earn you gameplay altering artefacts – but unless you're desperate to set a high score on the leaderboards, you probably won't be replaying these once the novelty has worn off.
Despite what first appearances may lead you to believe, this isn't a role-playing game as such, as there are no classes to choose between and little in the way of stats to level up, so it takes all of the grinding away. Finding better gear is possible but rare, and although there are some sharp swords, robes, and staffs to find, this is no Diablo clone in terms of loot nabbing.
It really is at its best with friends, then – and the fact that friendly fire is always on means that your lethal spells will kill your allies often, which is hilarious. Even better is the way that you can 'cross the streams' in true Ghostbusters style, which causes massive, screen-clearing explosions – real grin-inducing stuff.
But for all of the mirth and satisfaction of the co-op play, the single player options are more problematic due to the serious spikes in difficulty which will leave you cheesed off to the point of wanting to give up. It is possible to beat the campaign alone but it takes a lot of patience – and not in the deliciously challenging Bloodborne 'must have one more go' kind of way.
Still, the game has a nice stylised look to it, and the spells are the stars of the show – it's really something to see the screen lit up by several dazzling attacks at once. Having said that, it's not the kind of game that you'll want to use to show your last-gen mates what the PS4 is capable of.
Magicka 2 makes a good transition to the PS4 – the controls map nicely to the controller and it all looks nice on a big television. It's an oddity in that it really shines when you have two or more players, but is much less fun when playing alone. Overall, there is much to commend in this magical blaster – just make sure that you bring a friend.