I’ll give Magicka 2 this: it completely commits to its imaginative spellcasting system, sometimes to its hilarious benefit, and sometimes to its frustrating detriment. There were moments when I felt like a true sorcery savant, furiously tapping out the perfect elemental combinations in the nick of time; at others, my efforts felt artificially thwarted by cheap, unavoidable deaths, especially when playing solo. Magicka 2 can be an unreasonably cruel mistress, but its charming world and sophisticated mechanics kept me coming back, particularly when I brought a friend or two along for some chaotic co-op.
By entering combinations of 10 magical elements one button at a time, Magicka 2 lets you experiment to discover a crazy number of different spells – and amazingly, all of them wind up being useful at one point or another. There’s a clear logic to how the spellweaving works: fire and water make steam, water and cold become ice, and so forth. Once I got the many rules down, I almost immediately went mad with power. Need a circular wall of stone that protects and heals you? Go for it. Need a spell that arcs to multiple targets like lightning, but burns like fire? Create it. For as much power as Magicka 2 gives you, it’s well-matched by encounters that require you to wield that power intelligently.
For example, you might get drenched walking through a shallow creek. Suddenly, casting lightning spells becomes a painful and ineffective mistake. I handled it by heading back to dry land and casting a weak fire spell on myself to dry off, followed by a combination of three water elements and a barrier to become H2O immune. This allowed me to stand in the middle of the water and happily pump my sword up with as much lightning as I pleased while my enemies charged towards me all soggy, ready to take tons of bonus damage from my melee attacks. Through its relatively short six to eight hours, Magicka 2’s campaign had me thinking and chuckling in equal measures, with a constant drip of sly pop-culture references to shows like Archer and Game of Thrones peppered throughout the ever-more-devious combat scenarios.