Review: The Wizardry of Steve Jackson! – One of the best narrative games on Switch

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A long time ago, long before video games were any good, the cool new storytelling mechanic was Choose Your Own Adventure books. Hugely popular in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, the CYOA genre abruptly died out with the invention of point-and-click games, text adventures, and video games with large, branching stories that allowed players to have all the fun of meaningful choices without all the tedium of having to turn to page 32 only to find out you’re dead, again. Well, you still died a lot. But the computer did the page turning for you, at least.

The CYOA genre came full circle again in 2013, with Inkle’s fearless adaptation of Sorcery! Books by Games Workshop and Lionhead Studios founder Steve Jackson. Inkle is a studio known for its mastery of word disputes; the very thought of trying to map out the intricacies of the stories the team writes is enough to send any writer screaming for death’s sweet release. It was sorcery! that catapulted Inkle into the spotlight, and now, with his four-part series ported to Nintendo Switch, we hope more people can see why.

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Witchcraft! It begins in the Shamutanti Hills, in a small town called Analand, where your protagonist begins the search for him. The first part of this epic story unfolds like a normal choose-your-own-adventure adventure: it’s a short walk through a standard fantasy swamp setting. In fact, this first part is easily the most forgettable of the series, so even though we’ve played this game at least four times… we can’t really remember much about it either. And that’s right: first part of Sorcery! it’s basically the part where you dip your toe into the bath to see if it’s the right temperature.

The second part, on the other hand, set in the chaotic and confusing labyrinth of Kharé, The Cityport of Traps, is the part where you drop a bath bomb into the water and everything becomes bright and colorful. This chapter, populated by weirdos, beggars, thieves and ghosts, is absolutely brilliant, if a bit repetitive.

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It is within this city, a city that is trying to trip you up or just kill you, that you will learn the ropes of sorcery! pretty fast, or die trying. Inkle has employed a clever trick in his video game adaptation of Jackson’s work, by replicating the page movement of a CYOA book with the ability to rewind and play a section of the game at almost any point. You will use it, and you should use it, a batch.

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If you get in a fight with a goblin and lose half your health, no problem: try again and do better. If you see a house on fire and explore inside only to find a flesh-hungry soot demon, back off and be sure to skip the house. It’s not about getting it right the first time, or even living with your failures. This is a game about exploring each alley and finding which one gives you the most gold and information. It can be tedious, and it is in the second part where the tedium is more pronounced, but knowing the story and the setting inside out is your reward, and there is sure to be one. batch of information. So much so, in fact, that we’d wager no two players have had the same experience throughout the game.

In part three, you’ll see why information is such an important currency, as the saga reaches a glorious point. There are seven serpents you must slay on your way to Mampang, the city within which the Archmage has barricaded himself to prepare for your arrival, as the foretold doom of his evil plans. The serpents are his messengers and spies, but they cannot be killed by mortal means. Instead, you’ll have to scour the field, using whatever you’ve managed to gather in your bag of tricks to find clues to the snakes’ weaknesses, as well as the power of weather itself a recurring theme in the game, and the intriguing magic system that relies on memorizing three-letter spells and casting them in the correct scenarios.

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The third part is quickly followed by the fourth part, the culmination of all you have learned and collected in the previous parts, from how much money you have managed to collect, to the god you have chosen to accompany you, to whether or not you spared an unimportant character in the first part. Every variable you’ve encountered up to this point can either save you from a sticky situation or lead to your downfall. Imagine a giant map of tangled dependencies, branches, saved information, hints, and logs of all your individual choices, and you’ll be a part of imagining what this game looks like in the back end. It truly is a blast to witness, and not just for narrative design nerds.

Unfortunately, the downside to the complicated web of strings and cables that hold the game together is that parts sometimes fall out, which is to say it’s pretty buggy. We didn’t have too many game-breaking bugs, and even the ones we did have were resolved by exiting the game and restarting it (which isn’t too much of a problem, since the autosave will take you back to the last decision you made). done), but we occasionally found ourselves nervously praying that the entire game didn’t spontaneously decide to delete our save.

But while it’s irritating and a bit stressful having to deal with bugs and glitches, it still feels like a miracle that this game works, works (mostly) well, and works well on the Change start up.

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Witchcraft! is truly an incredibly masterful piece of narrative, because it plays with conventions and genre in ways that are surprising, charming, and deceptive at the same time, and while we say this as total fans of Inkle’s work in general (so your mileage may vary , especially if you didn’t enjoy Heaven’s Vault or 80 Days), it’s a perfect game for Switch. It can be played in short snippets or long sessions to take notes; Whether you devour it in bed or take your time in front of the TV, it’s just as beautiful, though the text is perhaps better suited to the handheld, and you get the benefit of being able to use the touch screen for parts of it. more complicated.

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We would like to believe that this game is exciting, strange and interesting enough to recommend it to anyone, but realistically, it is a game for those who love stories, consequences and reading. the cave of time with a flashlight under the covers.

conclusion

A masterful and intricate work of fantasy that weaves together themes of history, magic, power, and corruption in a four-part story, Wizardry! is a perfect adaptation of the choose your own adventure books from the 80s, and one of the best narrative games on Switch. A few bugs and issues here and there hurt the experience, but it’s hard to worry too much when the rest is just so right.


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