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The Magic Obelisk - WiiWare Review

Game Info
The Magic Obelisk

WiiWare | Game Arts | 1 Player | Out Now (North America) | 500 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote (sideways)
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Review
29th January 2010; By KnucklesSonic8

Better known for their collaborative work in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, 
'The Magic Obelisk' 
serves as Game Arts' first original title in years
Originally known as 'Shadow Walker' in Japan,
 the game takes advantage of the theme of light and darkness by exploring unique puzzles that depend on the use of shadows. Although it might sound similar to Hudson's upcoming game 'Tower of Shadow', there's more than enough charm and challenge in this game that make it stand out from other WiiWare titles.

At the start of the game, players are treated to a title screen that shows a nice, red book which sets the stage for the entire adventure. Upon opening the book with the press of a button, players will get to choose one of three profiles and then delve into the main quest. A nicely-rendered cutscene introduces players to the plotline that's carried throughout the game. Lukus is a charismatic young tree spirit who goes on an existentialist quest with his loyal companion Popo. Lukus' goal is to find the most ideal place where he can start life as a tree. The two characters share a special bond that's conveyed from the start, and it continues through to the end of the game. It's hard not to get drawn in by these two great characters and you almost feel impelled to help Lukus find his destination.
 
Being the tree spirit that he is, Lukus is unable to venture out into the light. Instead, he must stay within the confines of shades and shadows created by objects, animals and plant life. This is where Popo, the light spirit, comes in. By tapping into the power of mysterious obelisk statues, Popo can create a trail of darkness to help Lukus cross otherwise impassable areas. 
In each level, players control Popo to interact with said obelisks to create a path that will lead Lukus to the goal portal located somewhere within each stage or chapter. You hold the Wii Remote on its side and you move the little blue guy around using the D-Pad. To control the obelisk energy, you press the 2 button and use the D-Pad to adjust the direction where you want the light to go. 
The closer you get to the obelisk, the smoother the movement will be. 
When you confirm where you want the energy trail to go, a trail of darkness will be created allowing Lukus to walk through for a short period of time. 

Lukus is controlled automatically and thanks to some good programming, he's very co-operative and he'll never willingly step into the light. If Lukus ever begins to wander off in the wrong direction, though, you can always press the 1 Button to call him over. 
There's reason to be cautious, however, as there are purple ghosts that will try to knock you out of the shadows if you get too close. The Spirit Meter in the top-left hand corner of the screen represents Lukus' life meter. Whenever he finds himself in the sunlight, he'll lose a life, eventually leading to a Game Over if he loses them all.

There are three types of obelisks that you will encounter on your quest. Red obelisks are heat-based, which allows you to even use their energy to melt frozen objects or set robots on a rampage. Blue obelisks are ice-based, allowing you to create a slippery, linear trail that can freeze unsuspecting robots. Finally, yellow obelisks are wind-based and these will enable Lukus to float in the air as he travels along the trail. The variety of elements incorprated into the main gameplay definitely do much to make the game that much more enjoyable.

Some levels contain hidden elements that need to be explored before players can progress. When controlling an obelisk's energy, a visual marker in the form of "?!" will appear when you can make contact with a mysterious object. For example, a sprout of a tree can grow to become a provider of shade as you set a trail coming from an obelisk. Sometimes you'll even need to use this method to reveal the goal portal which may be hidden in certain levels. Lukus can also interact with the animal characters that appear in select chapters. When he gets close enough, a thought bubble will appear above his head and he'll walk over to carry on a conversation with whomever is nearby. Along your journey, you'll speak to a giraffe, a family of bears, and even a giant turtle. Not only do these interactions develop the storyline but they also make gameplay a more interesting affair, straying away from just having puzzles.

The pop-up storybook style that the developers went for has led to some downright gorgeous visuals. Regardless of what your opinion is on WiiWare titles, you'll find yourself stopping and just admiring the presentation stylings and the amount of work that went into making this project a success. Even the music is a great accompaniment to the game's different puzzle stages and it continues with the charming feel that the developers were going for. The only dispute you'll have with the game's presentation will be the lack of camera adjustment features. You'll find yourself in awkward situations at times where the in-game camera makes gameplay a tad inconvenient, even irritating. Really, this is the game's biggest flaw and in later stages, this aspect will make some stages a bit more frustrating than they would be otherwise. Although it's not something you may be necessarily able to overlook, it certainly is something a player can get used to over time. Otherwise, The Magic Obelisk is still very enjoyable, a game filled with excellence all around.

Although the game certainly looks like it would be otherwise, the game has a fairly steep difficulty curve that spikes from the 12th chapter onwards. As you progress through the main adventure, you'll find yourself encountering a mix of both straight-forward and challenging stages. Especially towards the end of the game will players need to think even more about how to interact with the various obelisks to get to the end goal. To that end, don't be surprised if you find yourself stuck or even frustrated at times. Motivated by a desire to see the game to its completion and help Lukus on his quest, most will press forward despite these trying situations. 
Even when you complete the main adventure, the game has a Free Play mode where you can go back and play any of the cleared stages over again. Ambitious gamers can try to set the fastest time possible in every level and even aim for a perfect game (i.e., clearing a level with no damage to Spirit Meter). This gives players the motivation to return to the gam even after the main quest is done not only in the immediate future, but even months down the round.

The president of Game Arts described The Magic Obelisk as a "labor of love". After playing through it, you can definitely see why that statement rings true! Although the game's flaws may annoy you from time to time, in retrospect, they really are minor. The Magic Obelisk is a very charming WiiWare release that's just oozing of quality. The game is an absolute steal at only 500 Points, especially when you consider that Japan got the game for double that price. I'd be tempted to call this an essential purchase but just to put skeptics at ease, I will say that there's no excuse why you shouldn't get the game immediately!


26/30 - Very Good

Gameplay 8/10 - Unique concept with good gameplay mechanics, some small room for improvement, memorable characters
Presentation 9/10 - Eye-pleasing visual style, soft music accompanies gameplay well, loses a point for camera annoyances
Enjoyment 4/5 - Not an easy game by any stretch, puzzles are pretty challenging, some slight frustrations along the way
Extra Content 5/5 - Quest is of good length, Free Play adds replay value, a game to return to months later, amazing value!

Equivalent to a score of 87% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

The Magic Obelisk
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Review by KnucklesSonic8
 


 
 
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