Nine Parchments is far from perfect, that much is certain, but it offers a good time, especially for couch co-op. It mixes a lot of gameplay elements from different games which I happen to really enjoy. It’s got the twin-stick magic of the Wizard class from Diablo III, and the levels aren’t super expansive, but beautiful and arcade-y in design. The story is completely throw-away in and of itself, but I won’t say that there weren’t a couple of character dialogue lines that were genuinely touching. There are eight playable characters each with four different forms, so essentially you’ve got 32 characters to choose from.
When you start the game, you’ve only got two characters to choose from, but by doing small side-quests, and finding certain staffs and hats, you unlock the rest. Each character starts with three spells that they can cycle through, and they can learn nine spells in total. There are more than nine spells, way more, and each character, once fully leveled up with all of their spells, can feel somewhat different from others. The way that magic works in this game is fairly simple and effective when it’s broken down. There are three pairings of elements:
- Fire and Ice
- Life and Death
- Steam and Lightning
These elements are weak to each other, and most enemies are imbued with, or shielded by one of these elements. So if an enemy has an Ice shield, you would attack him with fire to destroy the shield, then after that you can attack him with whatever. If an enemy is imbued with the element, however, they will always be weak to their opposite element, shield or no. That also means that they’re immune to their own element, so don’t bother trying to hit an ice enemy with an ice beam, that’ll get you nowhere quick. This is why it’s really important to diversify your elements early on in the game. As far as I can tell, every character can learn at least one spell of each element, although some characters favor certain elements overall. For example, the first character I picked, Cornelius has a pension for ice spells, and starts the game with one, as well as a fireball and a death bomb. Stupid me picked another ice spell for my first additional spell, though, and that made the next chapter a little harder than it needed to be.
Still though, there’s a good amount of characters with different stats and favored elements, and tons of different spells and types of spells (beams, single-shots, bombs, waves, traps, etc.). It should be said that the game is infinitely more fun when played with at least on other person, being able to revive each other and bounce spells off each other is great. You can cross beams with another player (or even an enemy beam) to form a bigger, stronger beam for devastating effects.
So the gameplay is fine and well enough, but what about the level design? Well, first thing is that, running on the Xbox One X, this game looks so pretty. I didn’t expect the game to look as good as it did, but every different area blew me away with how gorgeous it looked for such a silly, cartoony game. I can’t speak for how it looks on the regular Xbox One, but I can’t imagine it’s that radically different, it’s just really well designed and nice to look at. I will say though, as good as it looks, there’s not much interactive to do with the levels. They’re just these long, winding paths with enemies peppered throughout them, much like a typical beat em up. I think that there could have been a little bit more done here, especially with the fact that you can teleport and jump relatively high, compared to what you might think you could. Not really related to that point, but I should mention, the music is really nothing to write home about. The title screen theme is pretty good, but I couldn’t tell you anything about the rest of the music, since it’s a blend of music and ambience most of the time.
The story, like I mentioned before is nothing much to talk about, the eight playable characters are all wizards in training. 9 parchments (see what they did there?) go missing that hold some value to the school that they attend and you set out to get them all back. Every characters has a little something to say at the beginning of each level, and there’s some light narration throughout the game. The level intro dialogue goes anywhere from light-hearted and funny to just a little depressing sometimes. Certain characters will mention things about their past or their time at school and you kinda get a feel for what they’re like as people. Make sure you keep your ears open for that dialogue each level, it can prove fairly interesting, even if the over-arching story is nothing special.
Nine Parchments is a very entertaining couch co-op game with a lot of characters to play as, gorgeous visuals, and fast-paced, entertaining gameplay. Playing by yourself is okay, but nowhere near as good as playing with friends, seriously, if you can, play with someone, it makes the game much better. The level design, while beautiful, leaves something to be desired, and the collectibles in the game, outside of the ones that unlock new characters, are pretty pointless. The hats do literally nothing, they’re just a cosmetic, and a really hard to see one at that, because the camera is so pulled back from your characters. It can be easy to lose yourself in the chaos while playing with friends as well. I have to say that this was definitely a fun, bright, easy to digest breath of fresh air after playing Mulaka, and I’d recommend it to most gamers.
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