Just to give you an early flavor, Magic Wand is the sort of game in which you begin with $3.93 in your inventory, and something entitled ‘Soda?’. It’s the sort of game that is actively trying to wriggle free of any possible attempt to categorize or even describe it. But attempt I shall.
Presenting initially as an 8-bit RPG akin to the earliest Final Fantasy games, it isn’t long before you realize Magic Wand is an entirely unique beast. Sure the graphics have that big-pixel, limited color-palette look that seems to be angled towards nostalgia, but there’s something else going on here. That isometric perspective isn’t fixed — this world is a 3D construction, filled with characters that are 2D sprites. This lends the gameplay a bizarre feel, as if the characters never quite gel with their environment, especially Radiget, the errant knight who serves as the game’s protagonist. Controlling him is an odd affair: he slips and slides his way around the blocky polygons of the world, jumping and swinging his sword to fend off enemies. The fact that you can use the mouse to rotate the whole world around Radiget feels both unruly and weird.
There are obvious nods to those classic JRPGs. The overworld map that pops up when you leave each location is one. This has you moving a tiny Radiget between towns and other places, often pursued by enemies. Then there’s the wacky dialogue, which brings to mind the cheerfully bad translations Japanese games were once packed with. Only here the dialogue never makes sense, not even in the slightest, wherever you find yourself in the game’s sizable realm. Magic Wand takes the unintended weirdness of those old games, and through the distorted lens of retrospection, turns it into something twisted, almost disturbing in its deliberate peculiarity. This is echoed by the calculated naivety of the cheery chiptune soundtrack.
There’s an obvious attempt here to defy expectations, to keep you guessing, whether it's with the new settings thrown at your every ten minutes (beaches, castles, a lurid ghost train, a hidden dungeon) or the always unpredictable enemies (NPCs and foes often look identical, even in the same area, so you’re never quite sure whether you’ll be attacked or chatted to).
All bets are off. Magic Wand laughs in the face of conventional games development logic. In fact, it laughs in the face of any kind of logic. Think there’s a reason for a particular room’s inclusion in a dungeon? After all, nobody would spend considerable time and effort programming a section of a game just for it to wind up being essentially pointless, would they? Think again. Get used to stuff being there just because. Likewise, the nonsense NPCs spout could be relevant, even profound. Or it could just be nonsense. There’s really no way of knowing.
Like an early ’90s Japanese RPG developer’s drug-fuelled fever dream, Magic Wand, frankly, doesn’t make one bit of sense. Take it from me: you definitely will not know what’s going on. But it has appeal. And that appeal can be summarized in a sentence:
Fancy a trip?
Andy is a freelance writer for Game With Your Brain. You can follow him on Twitter.