This is the thirty-sixth entry in the Scratching That Itch series, wherein I randomly select and write about one of the 1741 games and game-related things included in the itch.io Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. The Bundle raised $8,149,829.66 split evenly between the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and Community Bail Fund, but don’t worry if you missed it. There are plenty of ways you can help support the vital cause of racial justice; try here for a start. Lastly, as always, you may click on images to view larger versions.
Cast spells by tracing shapes!
Wait, is that all that’s involved in casting spells!? I should have gotten in on this whole magic thing a long time ago.
Spell Casting starts a young cat who wants to become a wizard. But the Wizard’s school is quite far away, so he enrolls in a Distance Learning program instead, to learn spells from the comfort of his own home. I don’t know if Spell Casting was released after the COVID-19 pandemic forced many schoolchildren around the world to attend their classes remotely via teleconference, but it’s fitting regardless. The Distance Learning program provides a magic ball for communicating with the school, and a set of practice books to learn spells. Once our protagonist is proficient enough with his practice spells, he can attempt the exam in order to unlock more spellbooks with more advanced spells.
Actually casting spells involves tracing specific shapes and patterns with a magic wand (read: computer mouse). In the practice books, the full shape is shown and players must simply trace it on the screen. But this isn’t simple for long. In order to unlock the exam, players must earn a rank of 3 stars or better on each spell, which means being both accurate and fast. In the later books, this is surprisingly difficult, especially when shapes start to include intersecting lines and it’s not clear which “path” is correct. Get something too far wrong and the cat protagonist will interject with an abrupt “uh oh!” before resetting the spell. I saw that often, to the point that it started to grate.
Eventually, though, things clicked. I began to intuit the strange logic used in the spells, which rarely traced in the direction or order I might expect. Passing a few exams helped too. In these, players must remember the shapes for each spell, as the only on-screen prompts are a few points without any indication of the lines that must be drawn between them. I believe these points give some insight into how spell accuracy is scored, even in the practice books. It might look like I’d traced a shape accurately, but if I’d missed just one of those points — which aren’t shown in the practice books! — I’d be stopped in my tracks and forced to start again. As I learned how the spells tended to work I got mulch better at this and soon moved past my stumbling block.
The books themselves are great too. As provided by the Wizard’s school, they’re fairly drab, but our protagonist has doodled all over them, fleshing out shapes into full pictures, or just adding characters alongside cracking jokes. Many of these are references to various films, comics, or television shows, and they struck me as precisely the kinds of things students would draw in their textbooks or notebooks while bored in class. Each new spell is a treat due to these illustrations, and they kept me motivated to keep moving through the short game. The version in the bundle comes with two extra holiday-themed spellbooks (Halloween and Christmas) which I assume were added after the original release, since they popped up as soon as I’d finished the tutorial. They’re on the complex side, however, so I’d suggest sticking to the standard books first before trying them out.
Spell Casting is cute and humorous, and manages to make satisfying puzzles out of what seemed like a very simple premise. I’m almost tempted to recommend it as a family game that will be fun to play with kids, but the difficulty of the later spells might be too high for the little ones. Then again, I’m not exactly an expert artist, so maybe a young child would have no trouble kicking my ass at casting spells. I actually wouldn’t be surprised. Regardless, Spell Casting is a nice, short dexterity puzzle that most should enjoy. If you want to learn some spells from home, and you missed the bundle, Spell Casting is available for a minimum price of $7.99 for Windows and Linux. You’ll be an adept wizard in no time!
That’s 36 down, and only 1705 to go!