Friday, May 31

Review: Super Cane Magic Zero [Nintendo Switch eShop]


When it comes to indie games one of the things I tend to enjoy most are titles that play by their own rules and break into the weird zone. Marrying mechanics and play that are traditional with some dashes of originality and funkiness can be risky but when it clicks it can make for invigorating play. There’s no doubt from the moment you load up Super Cane Magic Zero that diving deep into the pool of the unusual is in order from its super-colorful and somewhat off-kilter hand-drawn art style, to its very current and quirky sense of humor, and then just its generally bizarre nature. The question then becomes whether or not all of that craziness is paired with solid and engaging gameplay. While it may not be perfect, it’s still hard not to be charmed by the insanity of it all.


Starting with character selection you (and up to 3 friends) will get to make what’s essentially your class choice, dictating some attributes and specifically your starter special. While this has influence on some things I’d say everyone plays roughly the same so if you want to pick someone based on their looks it shouldn’t be a massive deal. That’s mainly because the majority of combat in the game really comes down to using your weapon, whether melee or ranged, picking things up, and throwing them. Whether you’re picking up food or items to eat, an explosive donut to lob as a firebomb, or even picking up a stunned enemy to throw at another to finish them both off at once combat moves pretty quickly and remains fairly simple, though it can get hectic at times.


Getting into the adventure itself the story is unusual, though the structure of things is pretty traditional. Follow instructions to go in a direction, find a location, and complete your objective. In order to make it fun silly characters, environments, objects, gear, and weapons are all around you. A huge part of the experience is simply picking up and trying to eat everything you find. Some items will heal you, some will give you buffs, some will mildly harm you, and others will plain knock you on your ass. If it is helpful you’ll learn to eat it, if it’s harmful you’ll learn to throw it. It’s an odd trial and error system but it at least makes for variety and a degree of unpredictable fun at times.


As a downside all of the silliness and general lack of strict structure and rules can sometimes make it hard to tell where you’re really trying to go. Even with a mini map, without much guidance beyond some vague directions you can sometimes get a bit lost and stuck in a loop of sorts. Movement and aiming your attacks also take some getting used to and aren’t ideal. It feels like you generally move a bit too slow but there’s an odd acceleration where it takes a few steps for you to warm up to a quicker pace. Failing to have it be consistent is odd and I’m not sure what benefit there is to the change. Aiming with the right stick is also wonky and it can be hard to connect with what you’re swinging or shooting at every now and again. There’s a rough pointer in the colored circle below your character but the issue is again one of fluidity. You simply aren’t immediately aimed where you’re pointing and it can take some getting used to. In terms of pick-up-and-play ease and accessibility, especially if you’re looking to play with friends, this is a bit of a stumbling block.


Though it’s not an experience everyone will enjoy Super Cane Magic Zero does more right than wrong and is simply a game that does its own thing without apologies, something I can respect. Mechanically it may be a bit sloppy and there can be a lack of coherence at times, but there’s just an energetic and weird enthusiasm to everything that makes it easier to overlook faults. If you’re looking to laugh and enjoy yourself exploring a weird and colorful world and experimenting with everything there is to do it’s definitely worth checking out.

Score: 8

Pros:
  • The game is completely determined to do its own thing in its own way, something I can respect
  • While the combat is simple and easy to pick up you do have some options that allow for some personal flair
  • A sense of humor permeates everything from the dialogue to items and their descriptions to even the loading screen hints

Cons:
  • All of the free-wheeling silliness can make it tough to understand what you’re trying to do or where you’re trying to go next
  • Mechanically the movement has a weird sort of acceleration to it and aiming is more cumbersome and slow than it should be
  • With its sense of humor and odd style I’d anticipate this would generally be a “love it or hate it” type of game for most people