Yearning for growth, but still enjoyable.
Review written by
December 28th, 2009
As I've mentioned in previous reviews, WiiWare is an interesting platform to cover. Most people would expect cheaper prices to correlate with less complicated, less enjoyable, experiences than seen in full retail games with a fuller price tag. Nevertheless, the difference between an individual WiiWare game's value and that found in a retail game often isn't as drastic as the difference between prices. Many WiiWare games have proven that they can be just as capable, if not more so, than bigger titles that come in plastic cases.
The Magic Obelisk, while not a spectacular game by any stretch of the imagination, is certainly a relatively good experience for the mere 500 Wii points it costs. This game fits into the puzzle genre, one that has had more experimentation and formula changes than just about any other. Of course there's good reason for this. Puzzles need to change or else the challenge is lost, and The Magic Obelisk, by Japanese developer Game Arts (who gifted this game to me for this review), did ample job in keeping up with the genre's main purpose. There's escalating challenge, intriguing mechanics, and a colorful sheen that keeps the player from getting too frustrated in tense moments. Not without its flaws, there are some negative aspects that could possibly persuade the prospective buyer to keep his or her 500 Wii points for something else.
The Magic Obelisk begins by immediately giving the player a purpose and a goal, along with the tools needed to achieve said goal. The main character, Lukus, is a tree spirit who leaves his home to find the perfect place to plant himself and grow into an actual tree. He is inconvenienced, however, by his weakness as a tree spirit to sunlight, meaning that he can only travel across the land in shadows. Luckily, he is accompanied by a spirit of light called Popo, who can cast temporary shadows from obelisks scattered across the puzzle areas. This is the basis for the story, and the explanation behind the gameplay.
The player must control Popo and cast shadows from obelisks to get Lukus from start to finish in each stage. Accidentally make a mistake, such as use the specific obelisk's power the wrong way, or confront Lukus with an obstacle such as a ghost, and he may end up in the sunlight, which will knock off a life. The player is given 5 lives for every level and a game-over means that player must start that specific level again. This would be less annoying if the game didn't use checkpoints within the stages, meaning that lives are actually valuable, since some challenges are difficult to overcome.
In general, the gameplay works well. It's intuitive and unique, and shows a distinct level of creativity. However, I had several gripes with the performance of the game. Often, the free roaming (within shadowed areas, fortunately) Lukus will misunderstand my solution to getting him through a stage and will walk the wrong direction. You can also call Lukus to a specific point but he won't be able to get to it unless he has a linear way to get there. Thus I often had to guide him around blocks in his path, which I wished he could just figure out on his own. A few of the levels seemed to have strangely convoluted answers that took more time than I cared to give to solve them, again speaking for the imperfections within this otherwise enjoyable selection.
For a $5 title's usual length and content, this game is about adequate in the way of total experience time. There's plenty to do and lots of variety between challenges. Not all is good, as the difficulty arc between levels fluctuates sharply. Some stages will force the player to really think about what it is they're doing while the next may be relatively simple.
That being said, you're getting your money's worth for 500 Wii points. How much you may play depends directly on how much you enjoy the game and can tolerate frustration every now and then.
As developers see the relative cheapness of the Wii console, many of them try making games with 2D perspectives. While 2D isn't always bad, many games can be made much better with 3D. The Magic Obelisk happens to be in 3D and I would say it suffers little for it. Once again this game exceeds expectations in another aspect. For a puzzle game you could say the experience is pretty. While things can be cutesy, sometimes annoyingly so, the environments, characters, and everything else have a distinct charm to them.
Perhaps the only real complaint I have is with the camera. Being a 3D game, The Magic Obelisk must employ some sort of camera system to allow the player to see what he or she must do. More than once I was confronted with an area I just couldn't see all the components of because the camera wouldn't look around large objects when I needed it to. Definitely a problem, but doesn't prevent the graphics going without praise.
Nothing in this area really spoke to me in a way that would keep it memorable, or even mentionable. I would say the music and sound direction is passable at best. The music, while certainly fitting for the style of the game, doesn't do enough to match the level of individuality the game shows off. There was nothing particularly catchy or clever, just generic themes and blandish rhythms.
The sound was also on a similar scale of passable, as they worked for what they were meant to do, but there was little variety in the effects and slight amount of voice work (by which I mean short sounds that the characters make when they get a new block of text). Nothing really worth pointing out here either.
The WiiWare platform has built itself a mighty selection within the years its been available. The Magic Obelisk only adds positively to that selection, with its quirky experimentation and unique style. While definitely not without problems of difficulty, some moments of amateurishness, and a lackluster music and sound rendition, The Magic Obelisk should definitely be among people's many considerations for new WiiWare titles to give a download. The price tag is considerably small and the overall experience is considerably big.
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