Aspiring magic student Irene, whose strange disappearance was the subject of the first Magic Academy game, now has a mystery of her own to solve in Magic Academy II, an uneven hidden object follow-up from Nevosoft that retreads much of the same ground as the original.
Irene wants to serve on the Magic Academy’s council like her sister Annie, but she hasn’t chosen a good time to apply. The council is in turmoil after a valuable and dangerous document goes missing – and the rumor floating around is that it was stolen by one of the other council members.
To prove herself worthy of being a councillor, Irene is assigned to perform various tasks to help out the other wizards in the academy, who in return reveal clues and spells that lead her closer to discovering the missing treatise and the culprit who took it.
Conveniently, Irene’s wizardly specialty is "magic searches," so she’s great at searching rooms for cleverly concealed objects. And that’s what you’ll be doing for most of the game. There are plenty of variations on traditional hidden object searches, such as finding objects by their silhouette, spotting the differences between two near-identical side by side images, matching pairs of items, and finding all of one kind of item (like candles, purple flowers, or bones). These searches are perfectly fine, though hampered by rather lacklustre graphics that sometimes make items hard to distinguish.
The inventory-based puzzles are where the game really comes apart at the seams. Instructions about what you’re supposed to do are very vague. Objects that you can interact with glimmer, but there’s very little logic to it. Basically, you’ll be reduced to moving your cursor slowly across the screen until something starts to glimmer that you can click on.
And then what? Some items can be moved, others can be dragged over to what I figured out on my own was an inventory window (it was never actually explained). Inventory items can be used elsewhere on a scene, such as fitting a gem into a shield. But so can the dragged items. So why can you drag some items to your inventory, and others you can just drag around the screen but not add to your inventory?
Some of the scenarios are just illogical, too. In one scene, you hear a noise on the balcony and decide to search for suspicious items that a stranger might have left behind. This includes finding a key to unlock a set of drawers… why and how would a prowler leave behind evidence in a locked set of drawers?
In another needlessly annoying puzzle, you’re supposed to find various runes by their silhouettes but the runes scattered throughout the scene actually change shape when clicked on… so you get to click on each one multiple times.
Mercifully, there are unlimited hints that recharge quickly. Using a hint causes a very small area around the object to sparkle, and only for a few seconds.
On the positive side, the game’s 23 chapters offer a length that should extend well beyond the free trial, and you’ll get to encounter an eccentric and entertaining cast of Harry Potter-esque professors, all of whom are fully voice-acted.
A variety of mini-games offer breaks from the seek-and-find gameplay, but some of them are glitchy (such as the Simon Says mini-game, which registered my clicks as wrong even when they weren’t because I had clicked too early).
Another quirk is that the game only saves your progress after you complete a chapter, not after each puzzle. So if you have to quit mid-way through a chapter, you’ll find yourself having to repeat some of the same puzzles and scenes again. It’s not a big deal, because the chapters are each quite short, but it’s still not the most well thought out system.
Given all the top-notch hidden object games on the market, it’s hard to recommend a mediocre title like Magic Academy II – unless perhaps you’re a particularly big fan of wizards and magic.