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MagiQuest Online: The Portal Adventure Series: Chapter One - The Clan Courtyard and Twisted Woods Realms

Score: 88%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Creative Kingdoms
Developer: Cyan Worlds
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 (Private) - Massively Multiplayer
Genre: Adventure/ Puzzle/ MMORPG

Graphics & Sound:

MagiQuest Online presents a 3D world to explore in a series of scavenger hunts and puzzles to solve. The graphics aren't up to the same astonishing levels of realism that some of the cutting-edge games these days are capable of displaying, but then again, the hardware requirements are lower because of it. Mind you, the game is by no means ugly; it's just not the prettiest game on the market. I found that the settings were set pretty low when I first played MagiQuest Online, but upping the settings helped make the game look a lot better. If your gaming PC isn't very powerful, these initial settings will probably let you play the game. If your PC has more power to it, though, you'll want to tweak the settings to get a better looking and sounding experience.

I found the audio in MagiQuest Online to be all good, but different parts for different reasons. Specifically, the ambient music that plays when you enter one of the clan halls from the hub (the Clan Hall Quest Stone area) sounds very much like the Tim Burton-esque music featured in the television series, Pushing Daisies, which was a deliciously dark and comedic series along the lines of Lemony Snicket and one of my favorites, at that.

In addition to the excellent ambient music, I enjoyed the sound effects quite a bit, as well - not necessarily because they sounded exactly appropriate, which they generally did, but because they sounded to be exactly the same ones used in the location-based entertainment complexes, where appropriate. The sound played when you open a treasure chest, for instance, sounds just like it does at a MagiQuest complex. The difference, however, is when you open it again, it actually appears empty - a feat that can't be managed at the complex, as someone else who hasn't opened the chest yet still needs to see the coins. There is also an unmistakable sound effect that is played when you complete a quest and gain a MagiQuest rune. This same musical sequence is reproduced in the game, bringing back fond memories of being a little tired from, um... not running around the complex and finding things.

Another aspect of the MagiQuest's location-based entertainment experience are the various videos that explain how to play and introduce your next quest. I had wondered if these would be part of the MagiQuest Online experience or not. I was pleased to find that they are, in fact, in MagiQuest Online: The Portal Adventure Series: Chapter One - The Clan Courtyard and Twisted Woods Realms - not merely reusing the videos from the location-based complexes, but actually having new videos that make reference to the location-based complex videos. This was a nice touch, really doing a great job of recreating the MagiQuest experience in a videogame, while at the same time, making me a bit nostalgic and wanting to visit a MagiQuest location again.


Gameplay:

The way to think of MagiQuest Online is, perhaps, in what's it's not. Unreal Tournament is to MagiQuest Online as, say, the Predator movie is to Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. Yes, it's an online game, and yes, you can be in the same server instance with others, but there isn't any violence in the game. You don't shoot people, and you don't kill anything. Instead, you explore the area, you interact with things, you get treated to video and audio clips where people explain what you're supposed to do next and you use your magic wand to enchant things. Yes, the game is a fantasy-based game where you play the part of a wand-wielding, spell-casting, object-enchanting wizard, but unless you have an aversion to the idea of magic in the premise, there's really nothing much to object to. You can't "attack" other players, and the only "fight" I encountered in MagiQuest Online: The Portal Adventure Series: Chapter One - The Clan Courtyard and Twisted Woods Realms is the Duel that takes place at the conclusion of the game - the final boss battle against a huge stone golem. If you win, he's reduced to a pile of rubble. Similar boss battles at the Magi-Quest location-based entertainment complexes have you battle dragons or goblins in a similar fashion, but they survive the battles and concede that you've won, so short of reducing some animated rocks to their more "natural" form, there's not really any violence to speak of.

For those unfamiliar with the Magi-Quest, it is a location-based entertainment complex which has locations at several different tourist areas across the US and in Japan. Personally, I've played at the location in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Combining motion-sensing and technologies such as those found in Laser Tag, they have created an environment that reacts to players as they wave their "magic-wands," which serve as the only necessary hardware to play the game. Unlike Laser Tag, which involves suiting up in a vest, gun, and possibly a helmet - all of which have been worn by a lot of people prior to you and cost a lot of money to maintain, you purchase or rent a Magi-Quest wand when you play, and it identifies you, so that if you play at a different location, your stats and character information follow along with you.

In the MagiQuest Online game, you don't use any special hardware - just a keyboard and mouse - but your character serves as your avatar in an online version of the location-based entertainment complex. Instead of a large room painted and decorated to look somewhat like a forest, your character enters an in-game magical forest (The Twisted Woods). In this regard, the online version of the game can maintain a more constant suspension of disbelief. However, by contrast, the real-life counterpart offers more interaction and, well, exercise.

My goal here, however, is not to decide which version of the experience - real-life or online - is better, but rather to point out how well they work with each other. If you've already played at a location, then you can sync your account with MagiQuest Online and use your same character and build on your stats. If you've never played, you can create a character and play MagiQuest Online, then use the same character when you play at any of the MagiQuest locations later. Furthermore, completing the The Portal Adventure Series: Chapter One - The Clan Courtyard and Twisted Woods Realms episode will unlock a new mission for you to play when you next visit a MagiQuest location.


Difficulty:

Moving around the world in MagiQuest Online is quite simple - either use the keyboard to move forward, backward, left and right, or use the mouse to point in the direction you want to move and hold down the left mouse button to move in that direction. Interacting with elements of the environment is, likewise, easy. Most of the puzzles or scavenger hunts you're sent on are not much more difficult.

There are, however, a few times that I actually resorted to pulling out paper and pencil and jotting out a map or two to keep things straight and to be able to complete the puzzle. These puzzles may, in fact, be a little more difficult than the ones you'd encounter at a MagiQuest location. This, however, is fine since you're not trying to figure something out as a time limit (specifically, your paid-for game time) is running out. In MagiQuest Online, you can take some extra time to jot down notes about your task-at-hand and even take a break for a while and come back to the game later without any ill effects.

The most difficult of puzzles typically deals with the order of things being done. You will either discover diagrams that reveal these orders or will be told these orders in the form of cryptic poems. Anything you are told can be accessed quickly in your journal by clicking on its on-screen icon. Note, however, that you can't access this journal in the middle of an interactive event, so you might want to jot down something here or there if you have a hard time remembering things, as I do at times.

There are no difficulty settings to tweak, but this is balanced by the lack of time limits on most things - and the fact that the things with time limits can be retried as needed.


Game Mechanics:

I found it interesting that every time you play, before entering the game itself, you are presented with the create-a-character screen, allowing you to change what your character looks like before playing, if you so desire. The interesting part about this is I came to realize that this, too, was helping to reproduce the real-life experience of going to a MagiQuest location, since you will dress up (or, at least, dress) before going.

The controls are quite simple, allowing for playing with your choice of either keyboard and mouse or mouse alone. The only thing you can't do with just the mouse is to jump and, while fun to do from time to time, I never found a place in the game where it was necessary to jump. If you choose to use the keyboard, you can move around with either the customary (WASD) keys, or the arrow keys and the (Space Bar) is used to jump. The mouse can be used to move the pointer to click on anything that is interactive on the screen. (When the cursor hovers over something that is interactive and within range, the cursor changes into the MagiQuest "Q" symbol.)

At first glance, it would appear that there isn't a lot of replay value in The Portal Adventure Series: Chapter One - The Clan Courtyard and Twisted Woods Realms and that you'd have to wait for Chapter Two upon completing Chapter One. However, there are leaderboards online which show your ranking in XP, Gold and number of Runes. You can try to up these scores by re-playing quests; when you go to a quest stone and you've completed all of the quests offered at that stone, there is an option to reset the quests. Doing so will make these playable again, but will not reset your gold, experience or runes. By playing them over again, you can gain additional runes and gold, but you can't gain more experience.

...Or can you? Completing The Portal Adventure Series: Chapter One - The Clan Courtyard and Twisted Woods Realms earns you -exactly- 5,000 experience points. Some of the players on the leaderboard (seven as of this writing) have an extra experience point, for 5,001 XP. I'm not sure how they're doing this, but this sounds like a mystery... and a reason to replay the game some more - at least for those who have to collect every last idol, coin, ring or banana in a game (you know who you are, Psibabe).

All-in-all, MagiQuest Online: The Portal Adventure Series: Chapter One - The Clan Courtyard and Twisted Woods Realms seems to be very good at what it is. It's not intended to be the latest, greatest kill-all-you-can-kill online game. It's intended to enhance, extend and, perhaps, introduce the MagiQuest entertainment experience. And, while the location that I went to in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee has an initial buy-in of $24.99 USD (which includes a wand and 90 minutes of gameplay), MagiQuest Online offers unlimited hours of gameplay at your leisure for just $9.99 USD... and if you're still unsure, they also have a free trial.


-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

Minimum System Requirements:



*Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7, 800MHz PentiumIII or AMD Athlon or better Processor, 512MB of Memory, 1GB or more recommended, Video Card: 32 MB RAM, DirectX9.0 -compliant video card and compliant audio card, DirectX 9.0c, 3+ GB free Hard Drive Space, Broadband Internet Connection, 800 by 600 16 bit displays
*NOTE: We were unable to get definitive Minimum System Requirements, even after contacting representatives of the game. The above system specs were taken from the Myst Online: Uru Live game, the game on whose engine MagiQuest Online is built.
 

Test System:



MS Windows XP Home Edition, AMD Dual-Core, 3.11 GHz, 2 GB RAM, Award Modular BIOS v6.00PG, Gateway HD2201 21" HDMI Monitor, ATI Radeon HD 2400 (256 MB), USB MixAmp, A30 Gaming Headset, 1.5 TB Western Digital Caviar Green SATA Hard Drive, Sony DVD RW, Cable Modem, VAIO Mouse

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