One important thing to keep in mind about video games: with the right friend and the right mindset, pretty much anything can be fun. I have fond memories of horrible 2009 shooter Damnation, for instance, because I played through it with a pal and we got a kick out of how awful it was. Games designed from the ground up for cooperative play, then, tend to have this going for them. In some cases that can be most of what they have going for them, as we see in Nine Parchments.
You’re a wizard, Harry! Well, a student wizard in same setting where the Trine games took place, to be specific, and unfortunately you’re not a very good one. When nine magical parchments end up lost from the academy, you decide it’s a great chance to explore the world and get a little hands-on magical experience; it’s not likely you’ll be passing your finals anytime soon, after all. You can expect to spend a lot of time flinging fireballs, zapping ice beams and so on in true wizardly fashion.
Actually, it’s a little surprising to see another game in the Trine universe from Frozenbyte, actually; Trine 3 was something of a bomb, resulting in low sales and a hilarious apology video featuring Trine merchandise getting thrown into a dumpster. Frozenbyte’s post-Trine 3 games Shadwen and Has-Been Heroes must have done well enough to merit a dip back in this particular pool, kind of inexplicably in the latter case. Either way, Nine Parchments takes us back, offering a Magicka-style take on cooperative adventure.
Your wizards are capable of casting a few spells, eventually expanding to an arsenal of around ten, as well as smacking foes around with melee attacks. Spells and enemies both have elements and you’ll need to match the right incantation to the right foe if you want to succeed. Spellcasting runs on recharging mana bars; these tend to take an agonizingly long time to refresh, so expect to spend a fair amount of time dodging attacks and closing in for melee swings, especially if you’re playing solo.
Combat often revolves around herding and kiting monsters – again, this is especially true if you’re playing alone. Victory yields experience points which can be spent on a skill tree, though the unlockable skills tend to be of the boring “+X% to Y” variety that have been killing excitement in RPGs for years now. You can also find loot by exploring which tends to be a bit more interesting, particularly since it’s how you unlock new characters.
That’s…well, that’s pretty much the whole game. It’s enough to enjoy if you’ve got others to play with; as mentioned, Nine Parchments appears to be a take on Magicka, so you’ll have to work on not accidentally murdering each other and the resultant slapstick can make for a good time. If you’re playing solo, on the other hand, Nine Parchments’ samey gameplay and environments are pretty underwhelming, so the game can’t be recommended unless you’ve got some folks to enjoy it with. Fortunately, online play is available, so there’s no real reason to ever play by yourself.
We checked this game out on the Switch, which has its pros and cons. On the bright side, the Switch is pretty much made for this sort of game. Given the thing comes with a pair of controllers by default, it shouldn’t be hard to find someone, anyone to play with you. On the other hand, Nine Parchments’ presentation suffers to no small degree on the hybrid console, running at an inconsistent 30FPS as opposed to other platforms’ 60. I’d personally suggest the PC version with some friends where possible.
If you can get some folks together Nine Parchments is an entirely workable co-op experience. That can be said for a lot of games, though, some of which offer a little more than tepid skilltrees and monster-herding. This isn’t a poor example of its genre, though much of Nine Parchments feels a little uninspired and there’s no defining mechanic or gimmick to give the game its own identity. Check it out if you’re hurting for something to play with pals…but if you’re playing solo, this one is a hard pass.