capsule review

Rage of Magic II

How I long for a simpler time, when state of the art action games were rendered in two dimensions and usually involved hand-to-hand combat of some type. Such is the era recreated in Rage of Magic II, Gamebrew.com’s fantasy fighting adventure game for Mac, Windows, and Linux.

A convoluted story line involving a paladin and masters of light and dark magic is the fussy backdrop for this game, but the important thing to know is that you’re going to face off against a lot of bad guys. And to do so, you’re going to need to use hand-to-hand combat and magic skills simultaneously.

What’s fun about Rage of Magic II is the combination attacks you can do. If you remember those old arcade games, they frequently paired a joystick with an array of buttons that would let you combine magic or strong attacks with your normal hacking-and-slashing motions when facing off against an enemy. Rage of Magic II is no different—you move your character using keyboard keys and activate combination, magic, panic and super attacks by pressing different keys.

There’s also a two-player cooperative mode you can play from the same keyboard.

Rage of Magic II forces you to play a tutorial the first time you launch it so you learn the basic mechanics—irritating after the first couple of times you play it, but you can skip forward on subsequent plays by pressing Escape and pick up where you left off. (The game will save at each chapter point along the way.) There are also “movies” of a sort, using the game’s graphics engine, that help unravel the plot as you go along.

Visually, Rage of Magic borrows heavily from the Japanese cartoon style made popular in manga and anime—handsome characters with huge haircuts abound this multicolored, visually appealing landscape.

The in-game dialogue, written in subtitles, occasionally includes awkwardly formed sentences that have missing grammatical elements—a pet peeve of mine of late. (Note to shareware authors: Hire copy editors!)

The game’s audio is unremarkable—the soundtrack mainly comprises short loops of rock music that help to set the tone of the game but don’t really add a lot to it. And the sound effects—sounds of punching, striking, and bellowing from monsters and heroes alike—is pretty muffled and low-quality. I couldn’t help shake the feeling that I had cotton stuffed in my ears.

Gameplay is well-paced but the game’s response to my input wasn’t as immediate as I would have liked; my character wouldn’t always respond with the appropriate motion or attack I commanded it to do.

In addition to a one-player story mode, the game also features a two-player cooperative play “arena” mode that will let you play the game with a friend. However, cooperative play is only allowed from the same computer—there’s no network play here.

Rage of Magic II will, by default, occupy your entire screen, scaling your Mac’s display resolution to suit its purposes, with a large border around it if necessary. Which is probably just as well, since the game has a postage stamp-sized fixed resolution.

Rage of Magic II features a number of customization settings that let you tweak sound and music, graphics effects levels and more. You can also change keyboard key mappings and even detect a joystick or game controller, enter secret codes to unlock features, and more.

In addition to the two basic gameplay modes, there’s also a practice mode that lets you try out your favorite combo moves or learn what different characters can do; you can view fight shows between characters and unlock a picture gallery of the game’s different player and non-player characters.

To Gamebrew.com’s credit, the developer has continuously updated Rage of Magic II with fixes and tweaks since its July release; in addition to bug fixes and maintenance updates, the company has also tweaked gameplay with some character rebalancing. It’s good to see Gamebrew.com stay active with Rage of Magic II after release. (This review was based on the 1.2 update, the most recent version available at the time it was written.)

This is a Universal Binary release, so Intel Mac owners are in luck. Unrated by the ESRB, the game features fighting violence but little gore; I expect it would probably be suitable for teens and older.

The full version of Rage of Magic II costs $20; you can download a demo to see if you like it first.

The bottom line

A throwback to the coin-op battle games of yore, Rage of Magic II is a retro game of reasonable quality, if you’re willing to put up with some limitations and general wonkiness.

Everybody was side-scroll fighting : It’s old-school side-scrolling fighting action in Rage of Magic, where you use combo attacks to take down your enemies.
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