Title: Super Cane Magic Zero
Genre: Local co-op action RPG
Modes: Up to 4 players
Developer: Studio Evil
Platform(s): Steam, PS4, Switch (reviewed)
Release: 5/30/2019 (Switch)
Ever since Super Cane Magic Zero was released on PC as early access back in 2015, the developers have been lovingly fine-tuning their creation based on user feedback. The end goal? A full-version console release for their bonkers ARPG. Now that the release is here, is it a job well done or should they have tweaked things awhile longer?
In the land of WOTF, Cake the Wizard has died, and his grieving magical dog is raining chaos and sorcery down upon the world's inhabitants. It's up to you (and preferably three friends) to fight through the nonsense and stop the dog's mystical onslaught. Defeat enemies, fill out your skill tree, level up, and see if you have what it takes to save WOTF.
The Tip & The Top
Super Cane Magic Zero is immediately in your face with its random craziness and over-the-top meta humor, and this might tempt you to dismiss what you see as just a bunch of silliness. Don't do it. Look closer, and you'll see the care and attention to detail that pervades this game.
Boasting the artistic stylings of Italian comic artist Sio, Super Cane Magic Zero is visually like a Saturday morning cartoon on steroids. Locations, characters, and enemies are unique and varied, as are the weapons and armor you'll pick up (such as the Furry Underpants or the Rookie Wizard Hoodie of Fail). While the writing does, at times, seem so aimless that they may as well have penned it using a Mad Lib (for example, you'll travel through the Horse Portal to go fight weretables), it's a funny, lighthearted experience with a tone you won't soon forget.
The Flip & The Flop
Unfortunately, there are several aspects of the game that will likely frustrate you right off the bat. The first one you'll notice is the loading screen, which you'll see a lot of. Load times are ridiculously slow, averaging about 41 seconds each with a low of 23 seconds and a high of 94 seconds (yes, they took so long I thought I might as well start timing them). While the devs try to distract you from the wait with jokes, it does not prevent the pace of play from screeching to a halt.
Another strangely annoying aspect of Super Cane Magic Zero is its lack of a way to manually save. I cannot fathom how this point escaped four years of early access testing. The game has auto-save, of course, but no gamer is ever fully comfortable relying on that. This also makes it unattractive as a game to play for short periods (say, during your 10 minute bus commute) because there's no guarantee you'll be at place where the game will auto-save your progress when it's time to turn it off.
But these are mere trifles compared to the game's main glaring flaw: it does not scale the number of enemies to the number of people playing. Super Cane Magic Zero is billed as "up to four players," and so I began my playthrough solo. For awhile, everything was fine, but it wasn't too long before I began to be overwhelmed. The enemies spawned faster than I could dispatch them, and so I found myself running for my life from giant hordes of baddies. The presence of wizards (who would simply heal any enemy I did manage to damage) in the horde only exacerbated the problem, and all this on-screen chaos created a perfect storm for lag and dropped frames, which was the cherry on top of this frustration sundae.
I do realize that this game is intended for couch co-op, and so I told myself, "Self, since you're alone, you simply need to work harder and level up more until you're strong enough to succeed." But that plan quickly fell to pieces when the game announced that it was increasing the strength of the enemies in response to my rising stats. Whatever I did, I just could not get ahead of the bad guy curve.
When I finally convinced a second person to co-op with me, we were able to kill the enemies at the same rate that they respawned, so things ended in a draw. It wasn't until I got two people to play with me that things improved to the point where I felt we had a chance at beating this 20+ hour game. Alas, my companions weren't interested in playing it with me for so long, and thus I must admit that I'm writing this review without having finished the game.
However, I don't feel that bad about it. A game that's billed as "up to four players" should also be accommodating for one and two player experiences. Perhaps gamers of superior skill are able to play it solo and succeed where I have failed, but it seems a shame to waste all the love and attention to detail that went into Super Cane Magic Zero simply because no one decided to scale the enemies for single players (online play would have been another way around this, but sadly the game has none).
Final Grade: C
Super Cane Magic Zero is almost a double-sided coin. That which is good about the game is very, very good, and that which is bad is very, very bad. If you've got a big couch and lots of friends, then by all means, go get this title. But if not, save yourself a lot of frustration and give it a hard pass.