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The Magic Obelisk (Wii) artwork

The Magic Obelisk (Wii) review

"Faulty cooperative AI is usually where I draw the line. If I can't work with a game without talking down to it, then it's just not worth my time. I learned that when I played Brute Force. Yet, I still wanted to give The Magic Obelisk the benefit of the doubt and try to make it all the way through."

The first thing The Magic Obelisk does is lie to you. The story it feeds you, all the junk about tree spirits and robots, has more basis in reality. You play a light spirit--a creature that looks like a butterfly drawn by a four-year-old--named Popo who must guide a tree spirit named Lukus to a special place. It's there that Lukus will become a tree. The one catch is that he cannot step into the sunlight, and you must therefore guide him through the shadows. As a light spirit, you can shine light on various obelisks and other bits of ruins to create long shadows to guide him from one level to the next.

The game tells you that Lukus will never step into the light accidentally, yet I cannot count the number of times this has happened. Lies make Mr. Destroyer cry. I'm not pretty when I cry. Things usually wind up broken.

The Magic Obelisk asset

Every level is an elaborate setup of various stimuli. Lukus stands in the shade of some arbitrary item like a rock or a bush, and you must cast light on the obelisks around him to create shadow bridges. Using an obelisk, you can link the shadow Lukus is using to another shadow nearby. He usually walks over on his own, although you do sometimes have to call him over to the new shadow.

The first few levels ask the very least of your brain power, but later on you must plan your moves carefully and time your calls. Ghosts and robots threaten to blow Lukus into the sunlight, and huge blocks of ice and deep ravines block his path. Using proper monoliths, you can deal with these nuisances. Melt the ice with a red obelisk, or send Lukus floating through the air with a yellow one. A blue obelisk can freeze robots and create blocks of ice when necessary. Not all obstacles are so easily dealt with and must be avoided all together. If there is a ghost patrolling an area and you don't want Lukus to bump into it, you have to wait for the perfect time to call Lukus so he can sneak past it.

The Magic Obelisk asset

Puzzles get trickier and soon you have to link multiple obelisk shadows together, dodge many enemies, and worry about the icy shadows the blue obelisks cast (those will make Lukus slide, and if nothing stops him, he'll slide into the sun). Unfortunately, even when you're at your most brilliant, Lukus is still an idiot. Sometimes when called, he may not walk into the shadow you just cast. Instead, he might run into an item and give up, even though he was perfectly capable of walking around items before. Other times he will cross a bridge into another big shadow, stand there for a few seconds, then run back to the previous shadow for no reason. He's also been known to stop in mid-run and wait for the shadow to dissipate. That's right, those shadows the obelisks cast only stay for a limited time. But the most aggravating scenario plays out when you call him over to a shadow and he loiters around as if he wasn't called.

Faulty cooperative AI is usually where I draw the line. If I can't work with a game without talking down to it, then it's just not worth my time. I learned that when I played Brute Force. Yet, I still wanted to give The Magic Obelisk the benefit of the doubt and try to make it all the way through.

The Magic Obelisk asset

I never made it. If it isn't the AI that gets you, it's the lack of variety. Every level plays out exactly the same. I know what you're thinking: “Isn't that like all puzzle games?” Adventure puzzle games like this and Adventures of Lolo tend to have a lot of the same stimuli. However, in the case of Lolo, it uses its variables in a versatile way (and it never screwed you over through faulty design). The Magic Obelisk makes you do the same things ad naseum and only gives you a few different variables, and none of them are exciting.

It's a shame. I'd heard so much praise for this game that I couldn't believe how poorly it turned out. I wanted this to be that sleeper hit from WiiWare. Instead, it turned out to be a snoozer. The Magic Obelisk's boring gameplay and limited puzzles make the faulty, frustrating AI intolerable. It's not worth the effort to play, and honestly, the story is way too sugary. I expected better from Game Arts.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (July 11, 2011)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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