Welcome to Wizard Keep, the place where robes never fail to go out of style, and “beards are totally awesome.”
When I first sat down to play through Morgopolis Studios’ Magicians and Looters, I was expecting a metroidvania style adventure game with groovy magic spells and good old fashioned platforming combat. What I wasn’t expecting was incredibly well-scripted and hilarious characters, dialogue boxes featuring a miniature profile picture of each character each time they spoke, and (it would be criminal not to mention this!) the completely inappropriate yet wonderful ‘game over’ music.
From the get go, you are greeted with an energetic theme song which very much reminded me of this, after which you are introduced to Wizard Keep, located just above the ‘lame Mortal realm’. The story then centers in on Brent, an apprentice wizard who has the misfortune of discovering that a fellow wizard named Fylson has been stabbed, and beaten up with a baseball bat until candy came out of him. In his final moments, Fylson reveals that Wizard Keep has been ambushed by the wicked Morg men, zombie like creatures who serve a tyrannical ruler we shall soon meet. Brent the apprentice then proceeds forth on his journey, as badass techno music streams away in the background, knocking out any Morg men in his path until he reaches a classroom. Here we are introduced to Versimos, Brent’s teacher, who thinks it’s ‘great’ that Wizard Keep is under attack, and Brent’s classmates Vienna and Nyn, who are totally unfazed by Brent confessing that he just saw a man die, because all they want to do is learn some ‘hardcore magic’.
But wait, in addition to the brilliantly constructed sociopathic nature of these people is the character select feature, which allows you to toggle between Brent, Vienna, and Nyn. Although Brent is the only one smart enough to wield a sword and shield, and Nyn has two swords and a ‘totally sweet’ jump attack, I went with Vienna, who was promoted as the girl who is crazy fast, jumps crazy high, and hits crazy hard. Vienna’s coolest move, in my opinion, is her backward slide defense because it looks like she’s actually teleporting.
The downside is that she is completely weaponless, which does take a toll on your health (represented by a heart with a green bar affixed to its right) if you aren’t careful. Defeating the Morg’s men that stand in your way earns you coins, the main currency in the game which allows you to purchase neat weapons and item upgrades like the Steel Sword, Iron Shield, and the Red Crystal. You’ll also notice a light purple circle to the right of the coins you’ve gathered-that represents the orbs you need to collect to level up, which are usually sneakily hidden behind crates.
Vienna/I eventually made quick work of those pesky zombies, and navigated our way through the cold-hearted dungeons, but not without dying first. And while dying in most games is not the desired objective we’re pursuing, and is usually accompanied with feelings of disappointment or frustration, Magicians and Looters makes dying a joy. Let me explain. I put great effort keeping Vienna alive, making sure to restock health whenever I could, and I tried to avoid any unnecessary errors in battle, but when her last ounce of health was drained and she was flung into the air, this ridiculously cheerful tune that you’d probably find in an old gameshow came on, and I just fell in love with the game even more.
Early on in the game, circumstances see the trio thrown in a dungeon. They are able to escape using Brent’s ‘telewarping’ skilll, but unfortunately the team is sent scattered across different locations, and thus forced to regroup. And by ‘regroup’ I mean it’s up the the player to find the other two characters by venturing out to different camp sites where they are holed up. The came sites are neat because they double up as a save checkpoint like in the Tomb Raider reboot, and also fill up your health (and eventually, magic) meter.
You might notice a shift in mood once players are just beneath Morg Mountain, and this is reflected nicely in the quaint music choice. That doesn’t mean combat is any easier though, with new Morgs that have uncannily perfect aim with a bow and arrow, large ogre type Morgs, spiny red hedgehogs, and abstract pink creatures that wail before they start to chomp on you. Needless to say, the enemy design is effortlessly creative and original, and fits perfectly into the overall world setting. Sometimes, it can be a little too easy getting past them, since they take time to respond to the fact that you’re there, but I secretly enjoyed running through them before they could attack me.
Final summation: If you’re a fan of 2D platformers, have a weird sense of humor, and think wizards are cool, you will love this game. I was definitely impressed, and I take my hat off to the creators.
May the magic be with you.