Nine Parchments is the latest game from studio Frozenbyte, which is most famous for its ‘Trine’ series. If you have owned any gaming platform the in last 5-10 years then you will have seen the beautiful world they created and expanded upon within Trine and how they progressed from 2.5D into a full 3D game. The team have gone a step further with Nine Parchments and opted for a Magicka-style game by presenting us with a top-down multi-spell style which only gets better with more players involved. Magic, beasts, beautiful landscapes and more all await you as you set out on a journey you won’t forget. So, come with me as I see if Nine Parchments is as magical as Jumanji or more like the terrible, terrible 2017 remake…
*Nine Parchments isn’t compatible with the Playstation 5 – not even via PS4 Backwards Compatability*
**All images were captured by myself, however, they were taken off compressed videos I had of my gameplay so the quality doesn’t match what you will see in-game**
Nine Parchments begins with you taking control of one of two apprentice wizards. You begin at the Astral Academy, an academy where wizards from all over the world gather to learn magic. After a few tutorials on how to operate your spells and attack with melee, you are gathered in the great hall when suddenly, an explosion occurs and all nine parchments are blown out of the building and scattered across the land. You see this as an opportunity to get some hands-on experience outside, so you head out in order to retrieve and learn all nine of the magical parchments.
In terms of story, that’s about as much as you get to be honest. It’s a nice short build-up with no complicated set-up or long-winded backstory. Apprentice wizard (the reason why you don’t know many spells), causing trouble, parchments escape the building via an explosion, seek and learn them all. You will venture throughout 32 levels in total, either by yourself or with others, whilst also looking out for quills and hats in order to unlock new characters to play as and chests that contain loot such as experience. The two apprentices you begin with are Cornelius Crownsteed and Gislan of Alcyon, two bog-standard male and female wizards each with three basic spells. Not only can you unlock new characters but you can also unlock new abilities for your current character and also unlock new variants of them – which I’ll get to later on.
Nine Parchments plays like Magicka with a twin-stick based combat mechanic thrown in. So, you move with the left stick, aim with the right stick and use your spell with R2. You can also bop enemies on the head with your staff (which can also be a standard sweeping brush) by tapping L2 – with isn’t the best attack but it’s quite fun when you take down a massive beast by smacking it on the head with a broom! Another mechanic you have at your disposal is called ‘Blink’. This gives you the ability to instantly warp yourself across the playing field and out of harm’s way – if you’re not careful though, you can also ‘blink’ yourself right off the cliff and to your untimely doom.
The main combat style you inherit is your spells. As I mentioned above, when you choose your initial character you are provided with three basic spells and these are different depending on who you pick to play as. As you progress throughout the game you will obtain all of the missing parchments and with each one, you are able to learn a new spell from the choice of a couple. I found it was best to see what your character has and try and create a balanced character – so a heal spell and at least one of each of the elements as the game plays like Pokemon/RPS in that one element will always be strong or weak against another. This is where the similarity to Magicka comes in, there are different types of magic, magic bullet-like projectiles, a beam, a thrown grenade type and more. If you cross your beam with another players beam, it will create a stronger multi-elemental beam which is a bit similar to how you can mix the spells up in Magicka.
Whereas a standard twin-stick shooter wouldn’t really require much thought as you can just hold the buttons and shoot in all directions, Nine Parchments offers some strategy into the mix. Not only do you have to be quick on the draw with the various elemental attacks in order to combat what they are weak against, but some of the enemies have equipped an elemental shield. For example, an enemy may have an electric shield, yet there are enemies weak against electricity within the shield. If you try and use a lightning attack, it will dissipate and do nothing at all, so you either take out the shield-bearer or you work out what else they are vulnerable to. There are also other enemies who will reflect your magic back at you if you attack with something they are strong against, so you need to adapt and swap your attacks based on that.
The boss battles are also rather epic and memorable! You can’t just pick an attack and spam it whilst the enemy does nothing – they will have some kind of pattern but sometimes they can start to do things at random so you must always be on your guard and able to spot a weak point and use it to your advantage.
As I touched on above, you have a lot of collectables to look for on your journey as well as quite a few character-specific quests. Each of the eight characters has four variations to unlock for a total of 32 characters (each of the 30 you have to unlock come with their own trophy – so unlocking all of them is essential for trophy hunters). In order to unlock each character, you must complete three ‘feats’ which are all listed within the character selection menu – these range from healing yourself or colleagues ‘X’ amount of points all the way up to completing a battle within five seconds on Hardcore difficulty. Once you have done this, you will be able to swap to the new character once you quit and re-join the game.
As well as new characters, other items you must keep an eye out for are hats, staves and treasure chests. The chests contain a varying amount of experience, based on which difficulty level you are playing on, the staves offer various boosts and benefits depending on the one you wish to wield, and the hats offer nothing but a cosmetic change to your character. I would have liked the hats to offer something to your character and their abilities or progression, but they don’t – however, I did find using them in multiplayer helpful as we both had the same character so using a hat made it easier to see who was who!
Your adventure can be played, from beginning to end, on your own. Enemies will be adapted to solo play and may not appear in as big hordes or they may be a little easier to destroy if you are on your own but the fun really kicks in when you play in multiplayer. If you have ever played Magicka in multiplayer then you know just how much fun these games can be! With up to four players either locally or online, you head off on the same adventure only this time you must all work together to overcome the harder encounters you will come across. One of the other ‘fun’ aspects of Magicka is also here, and there is no way to turn it off… Friendly fire! that’s right, watch where you shoot your fire beam or throw your death spell as every attack you have can, and will, hurt your comrades! Also, in both single and multiplayer, watch where you throw your health spells as they will also heal the enemy – unless they are ‘death’ elementals, in which case you almost insta-kill them.
As part of the review process, Frozenbyte provided me with two review keys, one for myself and one for my friend. We both played the game for many hours and it was a blast – online worked perfectly, we both found it amusing to cripple the other and watch us fly off the cliff as we used blink to try and get out of the way and we even managed to unlock a few trophies together as in multiplayer if one of you finds and picks up a collectable, you both get it. This does, however, lead me to the biggest problem the game has – swapping between single and multiplayer…
To put it bluntly, you can’t without losing your progress. The game has one save which you choose whether you wish to play solo or in local or online multiplayer. If you pick solo then realise after a few hours that you want to play with a friend, who is either sitting next to you or somewhere else in the world, then you go back to the main menu and start a new multiplayer game – sounds simple. Only at this stage it now asks you to overwrite your existing save. So, you keep any unlocks you earned and any characters you have gained but you start from the beginning. Once your friend leaves you can either continue in multiplayer and have random people joining your session, or start the game from the beginning yet again to put yourself back into single-player mode.
This may not seem like a big issue, but to me, I lost about 7 hours of gameplay because I wanted to play it multiplayer with my mate and I didn’t realise that starting the multiplayer would erase my single-player save. If I did then I would have got them to start the multiplayer session and I would have joined his game instead. This is the biggest issue I had with the game though – so as long as you know going in if you want single or multiplayer then you should be fine – otherwise, you will be forced to restart upon changing your mind.
One thing the team at Frozenbyte are masters at is making beautiful, magical worlds and Nine Parchments is no exception! The game is so colourful, bright and detailed. On the PS4 and the Pro, we are limited to a 1080p resolution but the game still looks so nice on a TV. Everything is animated beautifully and all of the eight characters look and play differently with their variations offering a different aesthetic and even a different selection of spells to play with. It feels like this is a sequel to Trine in the art style and humour even though it has nothing to do with that series – well, you can play as Amadeus from Trine if you manage to complete his Feats and find his staff!
One major thing missing from Nine Parchments which was the main focus in the earlier Trine games is puzzles, platforming and problem-solving – this is all replaced with full-on action and combat. Don’t get me wrong – I love what the team have done with Nine Parchments, I just would have liked for the game to be broken up with the odd puzzle here or there or maybe a few hidden paths that lead to goodies other than a chest with a few experience points in it. Other than that – my friend and I had a great time playing the campaign and I’m about to start it again later on as I want to unlock the robotic owl character!
Nine Parchments is a great twin-stick shooter-style game – one of the best looking and most responsive you will find out there. The multiplayer is tonnes of fun both locally and online – although if you want to play it online be sure your friends buy a copy as well as the multiplayer was a little empty this morning. If you strive to collect all of the characters, variants and trophies then you are looking at a lot of time and effort – however, it’s worth it as each time you defeat a boss you’ll feel a rush of satisfaction and just want to carry on playing!
- Really fun in multiplayer mode (both locally and online)
- Funny dialogue with great voice acting
- Beautiful graphics and animation
- Large amount of characters, staves, hats and variants
- Cheap price for the amount of content you get
- Swapping between MP and SP needs to be looked at as it causes you to lose progress
- Some areas, even though they look beautiful, get repetitive
- Online community isn't massive at the moment