So artistic you’ll want to hang it on your wall
I’m going to save you minutes of precious time by cutting right to the chase: Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! Part 2 is fantastic and you should buy it. There, that’s it, this review is over. Go get your iThing, hit the App Store and grab it. That’s S-O-R-C-E-R-Y, and you can probably find it alright without the exclamation point. Post your kudos in the comments when you’re done.
Seriously, people, I’m not kidding here. I suppose I can’t stop you if you insist on reading this instead of playing the game, which is what you should be doing, but hey, it’s your nickel.
On the surface, Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! Part 2 is almost indistinguishable from the opening chapter, but there are actually a few tweaks and improvements. The first thing you’ll notice is that you may now play with a female avatar instead of a male, and the magic system has been upgraded as well, making it easier to use and to discover new spells. Part 2 will also import your saved games from Part 1, allowing for a direct continuation of that adventure for those who had the foresight to keep their saves around.
The story picks up just outside the south gate of Kharé, a great, walled cityport and veritable hive of scum and villainy that you must traverse in order to continue on your journey. Getting in is tricky, as the looming gates of the city are guarded against outsiders, but it’s a snap compared to getting out. As one character in the early part of the game explains, the walls weren’t built to keep people out, but to keep them in. In fact, in order to make your escape through the North Gate and continue on your quest to recover the Crown of Kings, you’ll need to collect the parts of a secret enchantment held by the city’s nobles: no small task by any measure.
The game takes place almost entirely within the walls of the city, but the variety of locations doesn’t suffer for it. If anything, it feels bigger, and certainly longer, than the first part, and the encounters that will greet you at nearly every turn can take you to some awfully surprising places. I was actually (and very briefly) a pirate of the high seas, albeit not a particularly successful one, and that’s one of Sorcery‘s biggest strengths: sometimes, even seemingly mundane decisions can have extraordinary results, and the sheer volume and variety of choices and consequences gives the game serious replay value.
Its other big strength lies in the presentation of the tale. Sorcery! Part 2 is brought alive by a richly-detailed map of the city that I would frame and hang on my wall if I could, intermittent pen-and-ink style illustrations of enemy encounters, and incredible ambient audio and orchestral music that will knock your socks off. It’s as though someone at Inkle said, “Well, Steve already wrote the story, so let’s blow the budget on production!” And it works, so very, very well.
Unlike some games, it’s also fairly gentle with players. Death is always a possibility but it doesn’t seem to be a very easy outcome to achieve, even if you make consistently bad decisions, as I do; at one point I found myself swindled out of virtually all my money, missing most of the inventory I’d collected and completely without any clear idea of what to do next, and yet I was able to persist. And if your luck does run out, or it’s just not as good as mine, the game will allow you to “rewind” to just about any previous point with no penalty but the loss of time.
The city map isn’t terribly responsive to pinch gestures, which can make zooming in and out a bit of a struggle, and I also ran into a glitch in one location where attempts to drag my character resulted in dragging the map instead, although I was eventually able to find the “sweet spot” and move on. My biggest complaint, however, is that while it’s a continuation of the quest that began in Part 1, there’s almost nothing connecting the two: no prelude, no references to past events, not even a breakdown of what it is you’re actually supposed to be doing. You’re simply dropped outside a city gate and told to get to the other side, and although this is presumably intended to make the second chapter more immediately accessible to newcomers, the almost complete lack of acknowledgment that the first part even exists is a little strange.
Even so, this is very good stuff indeed, easily the equal and quite possibly better than its predecessor. If you played the first part of Steve Jackson’s Sorcery! then you already know what’s in store, and if you haven’t, you should! Then play this one, too – and don’t forget to post those kudos when you’re done.