Lately many couch co-op games have released on home consoles, and most can be summed up the same way. Great local multiplayer gameplay but shallow single player offerings. As a gamer in my 30’s and a parent, it’s not easy to get together with a group to play games. Wand Wars is a game that is very hard to describe for yours truly. It’s borrows ideas from games such as: IDARB, quidditch from Harry Potter and dodgeball…complete with arrows that turn opponents into chickens and magical items. Admittedly, I did not really think much of the game after watching a trailer, but once I took hold of the wand everything clicked.
In Wand Wars, there is a deadly magical sphere that all the players want to possess. When you grab it with your wand, it will begin to charge, briefly allowing you to aim and shoot it in any direction. When the sphere is charged, it grows slightly larger and moves faster. Eventually it will grow very large and move very fast. Any players caught in the crossfire of the sphere will be eliminated, unless they can catch, recharge and fire it away. While it sounds easy, it can get very hectic very fast. With the press of a another button, players can charge and shoot arrows, which will disrupt the sphere’s trajectory or turn enemies into chickens. While in chicken form you cannot catch the sphere, only dodge it….trust me you don’t want to be a chicken. There are items you can pick up that increase speed or give you a special attack, among other things.
For players going into war solo, there are two modes: Story and Endless Trials. Story Mode lets you play through six separate stories, each as a different character. The differences in the characters are purely cosmetic and thankfully they don’t take long to complete. There are two difficulty settings, normal and legendary with the latter being obviously more difficult. Throughout the story, you are treated to brief dialogue between the characters before a match. Sometimes it’s one versus one, two versus two, handicapped matches or Merlinball. Merlinball is a bit like hockey where you try and hit a marker (think small goal) on the opposite side of the area. Your character does earn experience and after each level up you unlock a new item or stage. Endless trials are a never-ending gauntlet that gets more challenging as you progress. The goal is the through as many rounds as possible. I really like the single player modes in Wand Wars, I feel like those alone are worth the asking price. Local multiplayer supports up to four players and has a handful of modes that kept me engaged throughout. You can also place bots in place of any missing humans and even adjust their difficulty, this allowed me to tweak the difficulty exactly how I wanted it.
Wand Wars has a retro pixel art style that has great use of color. It’s always easy to tell who is who and which team is which. The music is especially good, doing its job of keeping pace with the fast action on screen. It never takes too long to get into the mix with quick load times and intuitive menus. This is one of those games that looks much better in motion than in screen shots. When it comes to value, most players will get more than their money’s worth. With a list price of $11.99 you are potentially getting dozens of hours of fun for you and hopefully a couch full of friends.
Out of all the recent couch co-op games I have played, Wand Wars stands head and shoulders above them all. A variety of different modes for co-op and single player really flesh out the experience. When you combine that with the smooth controls and quality presentation, you are getting an ID@XBOX game that really “checks all the boxes”. It’s hard to find a lot to critique about Wand Wars, could is benefit from online? Definitely. Would I love more characters? Sure. Those things aside, as it stands now, you would be hard pressed to find a higher quality indie multiplayer experience on the marketplace.