Continuing in our new line of “Dear Publisher” letters, Craig takes on UbiSoft (again). This time, it’s all about LostMagic for the Nintendo DS.
Do you remember my last letter? You know, the one where I told you what a disgrace it was for you to publish the awesomely horrible “Monster 4×4 World Circuit?” Well, just when I thought I’d take you off my nasty-gram list, you go and ship LostMagic for the DS, a title that’s missing a heck of a lot more than just a space in its name.
Being kind, I’ll start with the good stuff. You guys did take the time to ensure the DS’ touch screen was used in pretty clever ways. Note that I don’t say in “unique” ways, because frankly, we saw a lot of this in the earlier Spyro the Dragon title for the DS. Spellcasting, for example, is pretty cool at first – you simply hold down the left shoulder button and draw specific symbols on the screen and voila – a spell has been cast. The better you are at drawing the symbol, the more powerful the spell. Hey, that’s quite cool. Kudos to you, but maybe next time, you can let the action pause while we’re in the spellcasting screen, because it’s a real pain to be swamped by enemies while you do your best to draw some of the more complex spell shapes.
Now for the bad – did anyone check out the control elements before you guys slapped some shrink-wrap on this puppy and said “ship it”? I didn’t think so. The spellcasting is, as I’ve noted, pretty cool, but the rest of the controls feel clunky and awkward. Movement is choppy, and thanks to terrible pathfinding, getting from point A to point B is downright painful. I had to break down my movement path into tiny little pieces so the AI would stop doing stupid things, like trying to move through unpassable forests. It only gets worse when you start commanding groups of characters. Who decided that a perfect circle was required to lasso your troops? Ovals = no good, slightly spotty circles = tough luck. You’ve practially got to drag out your 3rd grade pencil compass and load the stylus into it to make circles perfect enough to appease the game.
Hey, you guys included Nintendo Wi-Fi as a multiplayer option! Cool, now I can be totally frustrated online as well as off. But wait, the online gameplay actually fares much better, since you’re fighting humans, and not the spotty AI. In effect, the online multiplayer becomes a training ground for players to ramp up their spells and skills before taking on the single-player campaign. So I guess I can’t complain, actually, I had more fun online than off, so that’s another point in LostMagic’s favor.
While I appreciate the belief that gameplay always trumps graphics, you guys really needed to take a moment and work with the DS. Graphically, it’s barely on par with stuff we’ve seen on the GBA, and that’s pretty disheartening. After playing several rounds of Metroid, Mario Kart DS and other titles that push the DS’ graphics hardware, playing LostMagic is like having someone stick a fork in your eye.
UbiSoft, you seem to be binging on titles as of late, maybe it’s time to scale back and focus on what you do best. Because if you screw up Rayman…so help me…
- Gameplay: 6.5
- The spellcasting is cool, all else is pretty rough around the edges
- Graphics: 4
- Makes the GBA look next-gen
- Sound: 5
- Barely noticeable
- Replay: 6.5
- Online multiplayer is where the fun’s at, otherwise, you’ll tire of it quickly.
- Overall: 6
- Would have made a better GBA game.