Unrelenting difficulty and control issues rain down in this charming, quirky puzzler.
The Magic Obelisk tells a very unique story. It is about the journeys that tree spirits (which look like children) undertake in order to find the perfect spot to place their roots, and grow into beautiful trees. This story in particular follows the journey of Lukus, a young tree spirit too eager to wait, choosing to embark on his journey on his own. His guardian is Popo, a blue fairy that guides him and helps him avoid danger. This is undeniably a cute concept and a charming storyline, but underneath the fairy tale appeal lays a game that is solid in concept but flawed in execution.
The object of The Magic Obelisk is to guide Lukus through the stage and reach the goal. As simple as this sounds, the problem is that if Lukus sets foot on sunlight he will turn into a tree, so he must stay in the shadows in order to be safe. In order to create shadow trails, Popo can use different obelisks scattered throughout the stage. Successfully using these obelisks creates shadow trails; linking these shadows together allows you to guide Lukus to the end of the stage.
In addition to the dangers of sunlight, monsters sometimes lurk in the shadows, meaning that you must be quick and careful when navigating the stage. Otherwise, the monsters will kick Lukus into the sunlight. Popo can also tell Lukus were to stand by calling him, and Lukus will obey as long as you aren't telling him to stand in sunlight. Some stages feature small missions to accomplish, such as convincing a giraffe to help you create a bigger shadow, or a teddy bear looking for a stone for his mother. These missions make things a tad more complicated, but the end goal remains the same.
On paper, The Magic Obelisk offers a very unique gameplay concept that combines fantasy with puzzle platforming. However, the game has several major flaws that keep it from being a truly special WiiWare title. The first of these flaws lies in the controls. Simply put, controlling Popo and the obelisks is likely to become a chore for many. The game uses the Wii Remote on its side for classic control, using the d-pad to move Popo around and activate the obelisks. Controlling the shadow trails becomes surprisingly hard, almost like turning a crank. If you move Popo too far from the obelisk the trail will disappear. In order to fully spin the shadow trailer you must move Popo in a 360 degree manner. This is a very slow process, and when you are trying to connect two trails as quickly as possible it can be annoying to start all over again just because Popo couldn't move fast enough. This creates many unwanted deaths.
Speaking of deaths, Game Arts was smart enough to make Lukus only stay in the shadows. However, he has a tendency of going back and forth between shadow trails, forcing you to call him over and stay in the safe spot. In the worst cases, Lukus can walk straight into a monster or onto direct sunlight when the trail fades away. It's not as bad as in other games where you have to protect a character, but when you are trying to complete the stage it can get frustrating. Other times Lukus will get stuck on tight corners, making his coming to you an annoying task to endure.
Finally, The Magic Obelisk is a very difficult game. It will take a lot of patience and skill to figure out how to link different shadow trails together in order to create a safe path. The game often has very obscure solutions to its puzzles, often requiring the use of special obelisks in order to create the desired effect. Patient players will be able to figure out the solution after much trial and error, but everyone else will feel discouraged because of the unrelenting challenge of the title. Combine this with the previously mentioned control issues and some players might feel that the game is too much from them.
The Magic Obelisk is a colorful fairy tale, and the visual presentation perfectly captures its whimsical charm. The game's graphics are stunning; each stage takes place on the pages of a storybook, and the characters are designed to resemble the characters in a fairy tale. The graphics are likely to draw in a lot of players due to their soft and cuddly art style, and the music also shines with soothing and whimsical songs that add to the atmosphere. The Magic Obelisk is a title that will surely impress when it comes to its aural and visual package.
Overall, if you are the type of gamer that enjoys tough puzzle games then The Magic Obelisk will impress with its unique concept and wonderful presentation. For everyone else, the difficulty and control issues may be too much.