‘Nonsense’ is the specialty of Super Cane Magic ZERO. The action-RPG tasks the player to save the land of WOTF after a magician’s dog named AAAH inexplicably gains powers and drives it into magic-induced insanity following the death of their owner. Unfortunately, Studio Evil doesn’t seem to know when exactly to reel things in.
The story got a few chuckles out of me early on, but dulled quickly as I realized it relied entirely on comedic randomness throughout. The heaps of unrelated dialogue and plot points that feel as though they had been put through a sentence generator. It became unfunny and bordered on irritating as the game devolves into meaningless gibberish with no rhyme or reason. Thankfully, the quest guide serves as a much-appreciated background in case your next objective was lost in the sea of non-sequiturs spouted by the world’s inhabitants.
Said inhabitants aside, WOTF is pleasant to explore, rife with locals left covered in sickly-sweet shrapnel following AAAH’s rampage. Several themed areas accessible instantly via a world map host a great amount of content to see and loot hidden in cunning spots both outdoors and in the game’s dungeon-like cave environments. Scattered around are many fairly simple puzzles; most involve putting a certain-shaped item on a switch with the same shape on it. It’s hardly a mental challenge, however, once swarms of enemies are thrown into the mix the goal becomes to clear these simple tasks before being overwhelmed by foes.
Combat is a mix of button-mashing and projectile-throwing, enough mechanics for a multiplayer affair but not enough to stop things from becoming stale, especially when playing alone. Enemies regularly appear in groups and can be dispatched with ease using the tried and tested method of:
Bash enemy until they are stunned; throw the stunned enemy into the crowd, stunning more enemies; throw those stunned enemies into other enemies; rinse and repeat.
Violence is paramount in Super Cane Magic ZERO: most obstacles are overcome by throwing them against a wall. When you aren’t using your primary or secondary weapons, you’ll be utilizing whatever lies on the field to chuck in a threat’s general direction. For the sake of much more precise aiming, mouse and keyboard controls are recommended over using a gamepad.
Difficulty is only bolstered by high boss and mini-boss health, which can reduce climactic fights to a series of circling the enemy and throwing infinitely respawning bombs. The range of weapons can help spice up fighting somewhat, but scrolling through the same differently textured melee and ranged attacks can only shake up the entertainment value somewhat. It was very apparent to me, playing through by myself, that I was missing a vital component of the game.
The first thing you see upon starting up is a character selection screen for up to four players, which indicates how much Super Cane Magic ZERO wishes to emphasize its local multiplayer as the optimal way to play. Much like The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords, playing this game alone offers an incomplete experience; the chaos of having your friends helping and hindering each other, flooding the battlefield with explosives and other such chaos, is a pivotal aspect of gameplay. Hence, I brought my reluctant sister on board to join in and immediately the game’s true character shined.
Multiplayer negates several issues I had with the game when playing by myself. Unnecessarily high health makes more sense with a group railing on the enemies, and the repetitive nature of dungeons is reduced significantly by having different players traveling down different routes. Projectiles can just as easily damage your allies as they can your enemies, whether by complete accident or as a ‘demonstration’ of teamwork.
Having a second player also allowed me to check out the multiplayer-only Arena mode. This is a PvP game mode incorporating all the combat and equipment of the main game, but pitting players against each other in a series of locations. The gameplay is in its prime here, but Arena mode also exposes just how little there is to it as what could have been a playground of weapons and items to face off against each other with instead becomes a game of chucking boxes back and forth until somebody gets stunned.
Throughout the game, music is hit-or-miss. Super Cane Magic ZERO delivers several chiptune beats that hark back to the era of upbeat overworld themes coupled with more soothing bass-led dungeon tunes. This doesn’t prevent the soundtrack from occasionally falling into the commonly fallen-into pit of droning bleeps and bloops. This produces some irritating loops that will make you thankful for the audio mute option.
If the audio has warranted a mute for you the sound effects will likely follow. Stock sound effects for eating, hitting enemies with projectiles and acquiring health items are all sudden and unexpectedly loud. This, added to the fact that the music often fails to loop on the game menus and the options are fairly limited (no way to alter gamepad controls or to disable friendly fire for when you can no longer stand your sister’s sabotage), highlights a lot of rough edges.
Super Cane Magic ZERO is very much a family game. It requires little learning to understand and the combination of cute and simple visuals with cooperative action makes the younger gaming audience a clear target demographic. It’s hard to recommend to many others, however; as far as action-RPGs go it is barebones and taking the game on with friends is a necessity, which makes the absence of online multiplayer sting even more. The land of WOTF has a lot of creative love put into it but is hampered by incredibly shallow gameplay and a lack of polish.
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