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Co-Optimized: Magicka 2

It's time to spell like crazy with Magicka 2, the cooperative game with friendliest fire around.


Magic is serious business, so of course the wizards of Magicka 2 must toy around with it. A broad proliferation and misuse of power led to the Wizard Wars, which subsequently caused the near extinction of wizard kind. You and your comrades are among the last living wizards in existence, and being killed and resurrected countless times has left you a little strange. But, just because your Order collapsed due to civil war, doesn't mean that you have time to sit around. While the townsfolk were celebrating the loss of their spell-slinging "protectors," malevolent creatures have been rising in numbers, and there's a magical baby with a mysterious destiny to find.

That's where your team of wizards come in. As in the previous game, up to four players combine their elemental powers to combat monsters while guided by "not a vampire" Vlad. The fully cooperative campaign includes 9 chapters. Although they're relatively short, they're marked with some huge boss battles. But monsters won't be the only thing you have to worry about, because friendly fire is always on, remembering the corresponding keys and buttons for spell combinations is a challenge in and of itself. So, you sometimes have to worry about friends "accidentally" killing you, or in some cases, hitting the wrong button and lighting yourself on fire.

Magicka 2 emphasizes cooperative gameplay to a fault. This is an extremely difficult game to play solo, even with a floating Familiar following you around to resurrect you once in a while. Your spells aren't quite as hard hitting as in the first game, and there are more creatures that are immune to certain elements. Enemies will easily surround you and kill you with their numbers alone. Or you might end up killing yourself by walking off a cliff or drowning (wizards can't swim).

To avoid frustration, you'll need at least one other player at your side. Additional players mean that you can combine beams to greater effect. It also forces the creatures to spread out instead of having them all pounce on one wizard. If they do, then there's someone to help pick them off as the unlucky wizard makes a run for it. Most importantly, extra wizards mean more healing and opportunities to be resurrected when a wizard is killed. Furthermore, players can raise shields for lasers to bounce off of for amazing effects.

The spellcasting system has been somewhat streamlined from the previous game, making some spells a little easier. You'll still need to remember key combinations in order to cast simple spells like fire beams, mines and shields, but pre-assembled big spells can be assigned to shortcuts. That means you can drop a meteor shower on incoming trolls at a moment's notice, but you'll have to wait for the shortcut to recharge before you can do it again.

Best of all, Magicka 2 supports gamepads and local co-op. So, you and your friends can "accidentally" kill each other while all in the same room. Or mix and match between online and local friends. If nothing else, Magicka is all about mixing up different components to see what will happen. The only potential downsides to local co-op is that everyone will be limited to using items that the host has unlocked. Plus, casting spells with a gamepad is a radically different experience from using a mouse and keyboard.

Once your squad of wizards finish the hilarious (and often frustrating) campaign, you can take your party to the various challenge modes. Challenge maps take you to various locations where wizards must work together to fight against waves of monsters and build up the highest score. However, friendly fire rules still apply. So, be careful where you aim that laser beam.

Also, it appears as though certain monsters have gotten the word that magic is really powerful, so you'll be facing a number of enemies that can also fire powerful beams to negate yours, or raise shields to reflect your powers back at you. Multiple players mean multiple positions to attack from. Or, at the very least, it provides an audience to witness your spell blowing up in your face.

Similar to the previous game, not everyone will be able to get their head around the magic system, which offers up to 8 different elements to mix and match, along with four ways to cast them. But chaos is all part of the Magicka fun. So, party up and learn to spell.

There's nothing like the thrill of competitive multiplayer, but sometimes it's better to kick back and play alongside your friends and family instead of against them. With Co-Optimized, we highlight and discuss games that are best played together.

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