Editorial | 6/7/2010 at 6:15 PM

Indie-ana Co-Op and the Conjurer’s Octagonal Excursion

A Wizard’s Odyssey
Developer: Digital Staircase, Inc.
Genre: Action & Adventure
Available On: XBLIG
Co-Op Modes: Local, Online, and System Link
Price: 240

Demo w/ Co-Op Available: No

In the previous issue of Indie-ana Co-Op, I talked about a game (Protect Me Knight!) that was retro right down to the intentionally poor English translation.  This week, I played a game that certainly left me with a very retro feeling, though I can’t necessarily say it was entirely intentional on the part of the designers.  Imagine a beginner’s version of Gauntlet where everyone plays as the wizard (who may, or may not, need food badly), mixed a little with isometric games like Equinox, and Diablo to some degree, and you’ve got A Wizard’s Odyssey.

A Wizard’s Odyssey takes place in a world where magic is as commonplace as technology is in ours, and its practitioners are divided into one of four elemental camps: water, earth, wind, and fire.  All is going well until one day a particularly gifted wizard appears that is able to master all of the elements and promptly decides that the best thing for him to do is to use this power to rule the world.  Somehow, though, he’s not the only one who has control over all four elements and you, and up to three of your co-op buddies, set out on a mission to put a stop to his diabolical plans.

Gameplay in A Wizard’s Odyssey involves moving from one dungeon to the next, using the four elemental magics to defeat your foes.  Each of the different elements is mapped to the correspondingly colored button on the 360 controller, thus the B button (red) controls your fire attacks while the Y button (yellow) controls your wind attacks.  Each of these attacks does something different, e.g., water attacks cause giant ice balls to hit the enemy, and can be linked together to cast a different spell, e.g., quickly performing two earth spells followed by a wind spell casts the “Sanctuary” spell, which heals your caster and damages nearby enemies.  As you progress through the dungeons, there are enemies aplenty to fell, prisoners to rescue, and even the occasional power-up for the different elements that increases their power and effectiveness.

When playing the game cooperatively, each player controls his or her wizard, which he or she can choose to be of the male or female persuasion.  The magic power-ups only apply to the player that picks them up, so sharing them, or determining that one player should focus on a couple of elements while another player focuses on some others, is recommended.  There are some enemies that are stronger against particular magic attacks, so it works well to be pretty equally balanced amongst your group of friends.  Finally, playing the game with a friend certainly makes the game more fun as the rather repetitive nature of spamming magic attacks to down the fantastical foes can get tedious.  Overall, I’d say A Wizard’s Odyssey is a great co-op title for younger gamers or parents looking to start playing games with their kids.


A Wizard’s Odyssey is Geared Towards: Casual or younger co-op gamers looking for an easy and fun dungeon crawling experience
The Co-Op Experience: Each player controls his or her own wizard that wields the four elements and must use them to defeat their foes

Developer: floor
Genre: Shooter
Available On: XBLIG
Co-Op Modes: Local and Online
Price: 240

Demo w/ Co-Op Available: No

Depending on who you ask, Geometry Wars has pretty much become the definitive twin-stick shooter experience.  But even if you are one of those folks that won’t even look at another shooter since you played Geometry Wars, you may want to at least give Octagon a bit of a peek as it has a few interesting mechanics to it that make it worth playing, especially cooperatively.

To be fair, Octagon isn’t actually a twin-stick shooter.  One stick controls your ship’s movement and firing direction, the other stick doesn’t do anything at all.  Firing bullets is, instead, relegated to the face buttons.  The reason for this shift is that the enemy ships you face in Octagon are only vulnerable to attacks from like-colored bullets, i.e., red ships can only be defeated by shooting them with red bullets, which are fired by pressing the B button on the 360 gamepad.  Firing single bullets isn’t your only option, however, as holding down one of the fire buttons creates a charged blast of the corresponding color.  This souped up color bullet will actually bounce around the game field (which is appropriately shaped like an octagon) for a bit before it dissipates, wiping out any enemy ships that get in its way.  Best of all, taking out ships in this fashion starts a combo chain, which is responsible for charging up your bomb meter so you can unleash a screen clearing attack at just the right moment.

So what’s to stop you from just firing these all the time, you may be wondering?  Well, one hit from an enemy ship doesn’t equal instant kill in Octagon.  Instead, you have an energy meter that is depleted when you’re hit by an enemy ship or when you use a charged-up shot.  The meter does recharge over time, but if you’re hit by another ship when the meter’s at 0, then it’s game over.  If you’re playing Octagon with a friend (and why wouldn’t you?) then this meter is shared by both players and if one person snuffs it, it’s game over for everyone.  This is where some really interesting co-op strategies come into play.

As you fire more and more bullets of a certain color, your ship changes to that same color and becomes a kind of beacon for all ships of that color.  Thus, if you’re in a streak of taking out some green ships, your own ship will turn green and those green ships that were once randomly bouncing around suddenly start heading straight for you.  Some of the ships are pretty small so you can easily get swarmed and taken out if you’re not careful.  With a partner along, there’s a kind of balance to strike, then, between who’s attracting and who’s shooting, which will then cause them to attract as well.  This shift back and forth between the players is a very engaging mechanic and has lead to some very close calls a couple of times when I’ve been playing.

While these color-coordinated attack methods may leave you feeling a bit like you’re playing a fancier version of Simon, Octagon is certainly not your standard co-op shooter.  Any shooter fan out there looking to expand his or her library should certainly take Octagon for a spin.


Octagon is For: Shooter fans that enjoy a twist to the usual bullet-storm craziness
The Co-Op Experience: Use the color attraction mechanic to pull enemies away from a buddy in need, and keep an eye on your energy gauge to make sure you don’t spoil it for you both