If you loved Magicka and can’t wait f or more, here’s a one-paragraph review for you. Magicka 2 is faster, slimmed-down and just as brutal. Changes to the spell system rob the advanced spells of their most potent powers, but make them easier to wield. It’s absolutely unplayable as a single-player game, but two friends can blow through the main story in an afternoon. Now, go play it.
If you’ve never played Magicka, you’re missing out on an irreverent, slapstick wizard adventure grafted onto one of the most genius combat systems ever devised. Viewing things from a top-down perspective, players control wizards by joining any five of eight elements and casting them (via the QWERASDF keys) on others, themselves, their swords, or on the ground around them. Multiplying these eight variables by the four ways to cast them yields tens of thousands of spell combinations, each with its own effect.
Shield and rock cast together can create either a slab wall between you and your enemies or a suit of rocky armour, depending on the circumstances. Add fire and rock to throw a fireball. Mix frost, water and death magic to shoot a spray of poisoned ice shards. It goes on and on, and experimentation is the only way to discover great combinations.
Magicka 2’s biggest change is to strip down the first game’s most powerful special spells to a few essentials and assign them to a cooldown hotbar. On the one hand, there’s no reason for us to have to type ‘QFASA’ every time we want a thunderclap; pressing  lets us summon it at will without stumbling over the keys.
On the other hand, we can type ‘QFASA’ a hell of a lot faster than cooldown times allow (you can type it instead of using the hotbar, but there’s still a short cooldown). The game is managing the typing for us, but at a cost to our ultimate expression of power as a sorcerer.
Find a friend
It’s a change that will upset a lot of Magicka’s biggest fans, but we think it’s an acceptable compromise between difficulty and accessibility.
Speaking of difficulty: don’t play alone. Without a friend to resurrect you, you’re forced into a defensive playstyle that the level design deliberately disrupts. Playing alone also keeps you from crossing beams and chaining explosions with friends: the most powerful spells aren’t accessible to lone wizards.
With friends, the freewheeling, aggressive style Magicka is known for shines through. Any good boss fight saw our party resurrect itself many, many times, accepting casualties as the cost of doing wizardly business. We beat the main campaign on normal in less than four hours. That’s pretty short, but factor in the multiple ways to replay levels in challenge mode, and Magicka 2 offers a ton of replayability in a tight package.
And unlike the first Magicka, with its infamously buggy launch, Magicka 2 is stable. We noticed the odd animation glitch here and there, but our party never had problems with dropped connections or lag. Beyond stability, however, the PC port is pretty basic. There’s no way to rebind keys, and the in-game button prompts all feature PlayStation 4 control schemes, which is downright scandalous for a PC publisher such as Paradox.
That aside, Paradox set out to deliver more of what fans loved about Magicka 1, and succeeded. For the most part, Magicka 2 is Magicka 1 done over again, in a more polished, streamlined, bite-sized package. For £11, it provided us with several days of shrieking, giggling and screaming-at-our-friends fun.