Wand Wars Review

By Cindy Minguez,
Moonradish has brought a new title to the Xbox One via the ID@Xbox program that equips players with wands, sets them astride their flying broo...er...shovels, and pits them against increasingly difficult AI challenges in a pixelated arena. This is Wand Wars. Will you be up to the challenge or will you turn out to be a real chicken?

screen1The Apprentice

As the game begins, you're given the following menu options: Story, The Trials, Versus, Tutorial, Controls, and Settings. Tutorial, naturally, is the best place to start and is a very easy version of the game that teaches you the basics. The game revolves around the Merlin sphere, a ball of magic that you catch (cn_A) and re-direct (cn_LS to aim) toward your enemies. Anyone who is hit by the Merlin ball disappears in a puff of smoke. You also have the option to use magic arrows with the cn_X button. If you shoot the Merlin sphere, it becomes a harmless, floating orb. If you shoot an enemy, he or she becomes a chicken and the Chicken Hex is a very useful tool. You can also pick up random power-ups that provide you with useful abilities or powerful spells with the cn_B button. You may re-play the tutorial as many times as you like.

Once you're ready, Story mode awaits. In Story mode, you will fight AI characters in arena-style battles after picking normal or legendary mode. You assume that legendary would be much harder, but I couldn't tell much difference at the lower levels in which I tried it. In fairness, normal difficulty becomes difficult itself the further that you go. Once you choose your difficulty, you begin with The Apprentice and battle ensues.

screen5Funny dialogue shows up between matches.

Early on, you only need three points to win the match. To gain a point, you must hit your opponent with the Merlin sphere. You can knock out your opponent with either a direct hit or by ricocheting the sphere off the wall. Players have a second or two before the sphere automatically releases, so you must learn to aim as quickly as you can. You can't stop and take careful aim and release when you wish and it takes a little time to get used to this. The longer that a match goes on and the more that the Merlin sphere is juggled, the faster it moves. The ball can bounce around at a crazy pace; think Pong on crack and you'll get the idea.

Once you have your three points, you gain XP points and move on to the next match. If your opponent gets three points first, you lose and have to try the match again. As you continue forward, it will take more points to win a match and each match will become more challenging. Various obstacles, stronger enemies, and different rules show up as you proceed. In fact, the game becomes quite hard before you're done with Story mode.

screen2Team play is fun.

The XP points that you gain with each victory build up to unlock new content in the game, such as new characters, new items, and new levels in the trials. During story mode, you will also learn Hexout, a match in which your job is to turn the enemy into a chicken, and Merlin Ball, a game that provides each side with a goal that you need to hit to earn a point. The downside is that the Story mode is still a bit short; you can finish it in under two hours. At least the pixelated style is very simple, but it suits the game, and the funny dialogue is good for a smile.

In addition to Story mode, the game offers Versus and The Trials. Versus is the most versatile mode. It's here that you can play couch co-op. For those who enjoy online multiplayer then you're out of luck, but you can have up to four players locally. When you begin Versus, you're pitted against the AI but added human players will automatically replace the AI. You can then decide to leave some AI in the game or turn them off so that it's only you and your friend(s). In Versus, you have several options: Arcane Arena (every man for himself), Team Arena, Merlin Ball, Hexout, and Team Hexout. In Versus, you can set the difficulty of the CPU levels as well as the length of the matches, making this a great place to practice if you're having trouble with some of the higher level AI. You can also customize matches, but this amounts to just choosing the power-ups that one can have.

screen3Enter the portal to move on in The Trials.

The Trials is Wand Wars' version of endless mode. In this mode, you begin with three hearts. When you win a round, you will be offered a choice of three cards (aka perks), your choice being added to your deck. While some cards are a one-use only spell, many are permanent perks that you retain as long as you stay alive. Once you finish a round, a portal will open in the center of the screen that will carry you to the next round. Sometimes, defeated enemies will drop hearts, too. Once your hearts are gone, it's Game Over, and you will find yourself back at Round 1 to try again sans your deck of perks.

The achievement list is a good combination of easy and challenging. Achievements are won by finishing each new character in Story mode. Several others are picked up just in the natural course of gameplay. Juggling the sphere ten times without it being touched by anyone else, for example, popped during regular gameplay. Others, however, will take some work (and some luck), such as having to destroy three enemies with a single magic beam or defeating three CPU players all at Level 10. The final achievement requires that the entire game be defeated on Legendary Difficulty, which could pose a real challenge.

Summary

Wand Wars from Moonradish offers gameplay ranging from slow and easy to frantic and frustrating as players try to knock out their enemies with the Merlin sphere. The game is easy to pick up and gives one the option of keeping it simple in Versus mode, but to gain all of the achievements in the game will be a true challenge requiring some exceptional hand-eye coordination. The title's cheesy dialogue is light and fun and matches the game's simple graphic style very nicely. While the whole experience is fun, especially in Versus mode, the game could have used more content seeing as all six chapters of Story mode can be finished in an hour or two.
7 / 10
Wand Wars
Positives
  • Easy to learn
  • Plenty of challenges
  • Couch co-op available
Negatives
  • No online multiplayer
  • Frustratingly hard at times
  • Could use more content
Ethics
The reviewer spent five hours wielding her wand at enemies and gained 16 of the game's 28 achievements. An Xbox One copy of the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Cindy Minguez
Written by Cindy Minguez
Cindy has been writing for TA/TT for three years now and is the Assistant Manager of the Newshounds at TrueTrophies. She's an English instructor at a small college and considered a remarkably cool teacher for knowing all about Mass Effect, Skyrim, and Diablo III.