Magicka was notoriously broken on release, a buggy mess with the most bemoaned netcode this side of a recent Battlefield launch. Magicka 2 still has its early issues – teleports that skip whole fights, stuttering boss animations, wizards flung offscreen yet not dead – but it’s a considerable step forward in terms of solidity, especially when it comes to teaming up with others. All of which should avoid the need for another round of Mea Culpa DLC, and its joke Crash To Desktop spell. friends, where you have the frisson of dodging friendly fire but the chaotic thrills of mashing spells together.
On your lonesome, it’s an exercise in frustration. Pieces has greatly emphasised movement, allowing you to cast on the go, but that comes with mobs that tirelessly run you down and camp on your grave. Your familiar can grant a revive, but with a fair old cooldown on the spell to recharge it and lots to dodge with only a few unreliable Magicks to aid you, many battles devolve into running around as you try to avoid restarts. Poor checkpointing doesn’t help, often bouncing you back to the most recent cutscene, not the tussle at hand.
Fans of the original may also take issue with the simplified controls, whereby dial-a-combo super-spell Magicks become D-pad or number-key shortcuts. The upshot is that Magicka 2 is easier to grasp, but no longer demands feats of deft typing (though these are still possible). A more universal problem is that deep enemy health bars and little variation in elemental weaknesses per mob encourages casting similar spells over and over.
Nonetheless, Magicka 2 is an often-charming, afternoon-long multiplayer romp that can deliver explosive laughs with friends. It’s just a shame that the randomness it courts with its spellcasting seems to have bled into every change Pieces has made, conjuring a sequel that is only intermittently better than its predecessor, if still every bit as frantic.