Soulcaster II is a rarity amongst games on the Xbox LIVE Indie Marketplace merely for the fact that it is a sequel. Much like the acclaimed original, MagicalTimeBean’s second release mixes in tower defense with a solid dose of RPG elements and a heaping helping of retro graphics and music. Unsurprisingly, after blending all of this together, what comes out is a deliciously interesting sequel that will leave you wanting more.
One of the strangest parts of Soulcaster II is that it at its heart, it is a tower defense game. However, unlike most tower games the tower is the protagonist. This means that you’ll go through the game as a frail wizard who has very weapons at his disposal. Instead, you have three different souls, an archer, alchemist, and warrior, who you must deploy to defend against hordes of monster. This system in and of itself is brilliantly unique, but when coupled with level design that makes you think quickly and place your characters with care, it becomes a deliciously difficult tactical experience which is tough to surpass.
The tower defense mechanic is complimented by a helping of RPG elements. Each of your three defenders can have their attributes leveled up at shops sprinkled throughout your journey. At each of these stops, you must make a further tactical decision about how you will upgrade your party to maximize your chances of survival.
Adding to these gameplay mechanics are some graphics and music that throw you right back to the 1980s. All of the technical aspects feel authentic and make give the impression that you’re playing an exquisitely crafted SNES game rather than a next-gen title that is trying to be retro. The music in particular is some chiptune greatness that sucks you in and fits perfectly with the old school mood.
If there’s one knock on the second game in the Soulcaster series, it is the way the story ends, or rather, falls off the face of a cliff. There is limited dialog (displayed through text boxes) until the last couple of stages, where you suddenly find out that you’re facing the final boss without any sort of build up. If there were no story whatsoever that would have been fine, however given that there’s some attempt at a narrative there should at least be some sense of rising action. Worst of all, the sudden ending makes the game feel cut short, as if MagicalTimeBean had more to include but needed to get it out by a certain date.
In spite of this, Soulcaster II still delivers a solid two hours of retro tower defense fun. Its well executed gameplay and interesting premise combine with a reasonable difficulty to ensure that most players will be able to find something to enjoy in this solid sequel. The price is higher than most indie games, but don’t let the extra two dollars deter you from experiencing the retro enjoyment that Soulcaster II has to offer.
[Soulcaster II]-240 MSP