Developer: Aksys/Black Tower
I don’t think I can argue that Magus is a “good” game. In fact, there’s a strong argument to be made that it’s kind of terrible. It’s short, it’s ugly, it’s easy, it’s kind of stupid — basically, by any conventional judging of good/bad, it probably comes out on the wrong side of the ledger.
Here’s the thing, though: I loved it. I’m not denying that it’s any of those things, but I am saying that despite — or perhaps because of — those negative qualities, I thoroughly enjoyed playing it.
See, Magus is basically the perfect RPG for someone like me. I have a massive backlog, which means I’m not generally fond of those games that take 40+ hours to complete. Magus wins here by being beatable in under 4 hours. In fact, while I haven’t yet achieved a platinum trophy, such an accomplishment seems like it can easily be knocked out in five hours or so — five hours, to get a platinum that’ll be a whole lot less embarrassing than Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs or Megamind!
Similarly, a lot of RPGs expect you to grind your way up, gradually levelling up your skillset as you go. Not Magus. While your strength and abilities do increase the further into the game you get, you start off the game with godlike abilities (which makes sense, since the first conversation you have in the game reveals that you are, in fact, a god), and things only get more absurdly overpowered from there. The single skill you unlock immediately — shooting balls of…something (Electricity? Energy? Magic, maybe? They never quite explain it.) — is more than enough to kill everything in your path. Add in the fact that you can hold down the Shoot button and strafe your enemies until they’re no more, and you pretty much have an uninterrupted run from start to finish. (There are additional abilities to unlock, but I was able to get through the vast majority of the game without ever touching them. In fact, the only one I used more than once also happened to be the very first special skill the game gives you, so make of that what you will.)
Admittedly, some of the bad aspects of Magus appeal to me simply because they’re so bad. The dialogue, for instance, isn’t just cheesy, it’s aggressively stupid — and I love it all the more for that. Whereas lots of RPGs try and gussy up the language and make it florid and fantastical, the titular main character here is basically a hyperaggressive, potty-mouthed douchebag. He immediately threatens to kill pretty much everyone he comes across in the most graphic ways possible, and the sarcasm and snark in what he says seems totally at odds with the usually earnest ways of most RPG heroes.
The one exception to this rule is Magus’ interactions with his sidekick, a buxom brunette who quite literally worships him as a god. Those conversations generally fall in one of two camps: it’s either long, drawn-out exposition (think Aqua Teen Hunger Force’s Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past From The Future) told through your typical “Tell me more about…” dialogue trees, or come-ons that barely qualify as single-entendre, let alone double.
I have to say, though, that the voice acting is…amazing, for lack of a better description. Is it possible for voice actors to chew scenery? You wouldn’t think so, but at the same, time, the gusto with which all the voice actors attack their lines here suggests that it’s possible.
On a slightly less enjoyable note, the graphics aren’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen (thanks the fact I’ve also played the likes of Walking Dead: Survival Instinct and Men In Black: Alien Crisis), but they are highly repetitive. The game takes place across five or six locations, and if it weren’t for the maps they’d be impossible to navigate on account of the fact everything looks so incredibly similar within each one. Not only that, Magus’ designers seem to have only come up with a couple of character models, which means that when you’re facing down endless waves of enemies, they all look exactly the same. I mean, there’s a difference between the deformed unicorns and the swamp monsters, but within those groups? Not so much.
All of which leads me to back to what I was saying back at the beginning of this review: Magus may not be a very good game, but it is a highly enjoyable one. I have a hard time suggesting anyone should spend their hard-earned cash on experiencing the game’s B-movie, so-bad-it’s-great charms…but, at the same time, considering it can be had for $25 on the PSN (or $30 in stores), I’m not saying not to do that either.