No matter how advanced gaming becomes, a unique game will always interest me more than one that just improves on a previous formula. Wand Wars is definitely more unique than anything, sporting gameplay I have personally never encountered with various modes that each play differently than each other. All of this may not be wrapped up with the prettiest wrapping paper, but it simply doesn’t need it to be playable and fun for hours and hours. Like a lot of successful indie games, Wand Wars has an aesthetic that isn’t technically impressive but is still visually appealing. Paired with a soundtrack that fits the mood of the game, while not being terribly catchy or memorable, the actual gameplay is what is truly drew me in.
The main reason I became so enamored with the gameplay had to be how the primary game mode is played. I know that putting it simply won’t truly do it justice, but I will try anyway. The main game mode, Arena, has players ‘catching’, powering up, and throwing a magic ball around the arena with the intent to kil the other players. The ball gets bigger and faster as it gets batted around more and more, meaning that players will be forced to have quick reflexes to keep up with the increasingly ridiculous match. This is all compounded by the addition of power-ups such as fireballs, shields, and two that transform the combatant into a cloud beast that can eat or shoot other combatants. On top of all this, the various unique arenas offer their own challenges and dangers, ranging from destructible environments that block opponents from one another to sections of arenas that can smash and kill anyone unlucky enough to get stuck between their crushing jaws (or fists). Trying to keep up with all of this (and more!) can be tricky and rather rewarding.
Everything in that last paragraph applies to the Arena and Team Arena modes. Team Arena allows players to experience all the hectic parts of the normal Arena mode with a buddy. The other modes Wand Wars has to offer are Merlinball and Hexout (which has a Team mode available). Merlinball simply asks two teams to try and get the ball into the other team’s goal. As for Hexout, opponents are tasked with hitting eachother with hexes. These hexes are the other form of attack combatants have to disrupt (or kill in Hexout) other players. Besides Hexout, players can use hexes to interrupt the ball or turn other players into chickens so they can’t defend themselves. All of these game modes can be found in one of the various single player campaigns or the multiplayer options.
Trying to tackle all the single player options will certainaly be a challenge for anyone that doesn’t have perfect twitch reflexes. The story mode is broken up between six character’s stories which is further broken up by two difficulties. The choice of difficulty is an important one as the harder difficulty is no joke and will eat up any player not ready for it. This is a downside later on when the difficulty becomes a bit too hard and I truly can’t progress through one of the later campaigns. Luckily, this difficulty doesn’t stop the campaign from being one of the most well-paced modes I’ve seen in a while. Organically introducing new game modes through dialogue between characters allows the single player campaign to switch up how the game is played without being jarring or even much explanation. This is all made even smoother with the fairly funny writing and individual characters. The story mode isn’t the only single player mode available though.
If progressing a character’s story doesn’t interest you, maybe attempting the game’s Trials mode is more your speed. In the Trials, players are met with unique enemies and situations that prove to be challenging by their own right. I didn’t explore this mode extensively, but did enjoy my several attempts at it. If even the Trials modes doesn’t interest you, there’s always the game’s multiplayer mode. Allowing up to four players to play at once (or up to three bots), the multiplayer mode has all the normal modes available while allowing players to customize which power ups will be found in the matches they play. The only real downside to the multiplayer is the inability to play online. While I understand that many will have a huge issue with this, I personally don’t mind as I believe this game works fine as a local game. In fact, I found it difficult to complain about much in Wand Wars.
Normally, this last paragraph is where I wrap up my thoughts on all the things the game could have done better or how it did things wrong. In this case, however, I find myself having trouble thinking of anything to truly improve. The game looks well enough with many bright colors and intricate sprites that perform actions without any problem. While the music and sound effects may not be put into any playlists anytime soon, they fill the empty background with something pleasant to listen to. Even though the gameplay is on the simple side, it is utilized to its full potential within the constraints of such a fast paced game. In fact, the pace of each match is done really well as they all start out super slow and mellow, only reaching the spiral-out-of-control speeds if players have the skill to keep the ball bouncing all over the place. Each arena found in the game is unique and brings new depth to the match happening within it. I did have a few gripes here and there but all in all, Wand Wars made a wonderful addition to my ID@Xbox games collection.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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