Path of the Sorceress serves up an interesting and strategic match-3 challenge
Magical Mysteries: Path of the Sorceress makes an intriguing promise: use your Match-3 skills in a new way to search for enchanted scrolls, make useful potions, and defeat your mysterious enemies! Yet while it’s a decent game, it’s not quite as impressive as it sounds, and all that exciting scroll-searching and potion-brewing isn’t really new at all but just slight variations of the same old stuff.
In Magical Mysteries, you play Aldera, a great sorceress in pursuit of her lost memory. Getting it back means going up against undead wizards, a wicked witch and other nasty creatures in contests of skill and strategy. The name of the game is is to arrange colorful tokens as quickly as possible into rows of three or more in order to draw mana away from your opponents and charge up spells that can wreak unique and devastating havoc on the game board, all while your enemy attempts to do the same to you.
Each color of token is dedicated to a specific spell or ability – red for the fireball spell, for instance, and blue for the freeze spell – and although the game describes each token’s power as it becomes available, it can take awhile to get comfortable with exactly which does what because virtually nothing is said about them afterward. If, as I often did in the heat of battle, you happen to forget what one token type or another is supposed to do, you may find yourself floundering a bit..
Along with the battles, there are two “puzzles modes” that provide slight twists on the gameplay and which is where the aforementioned scroll-searching and potion-brewing come into play. Scroll searches require match-making across bits of “magical scrolls” that are scattered across the playing field, while creating potions is simply a matter of “filling a bottle” – essentially a progress meter – with tokens of the appropriate color. Scrolls and potions give Aldera new spells and boost the potency of those she already possesses, and most of the time you’ll be able to choose one of two spells to learn or improve.
The spells add an extra dimension to the action by letting players drop fireballs and lightning bolts onto the game board, blow tokens off with blizzards, swirl them into vortices and more. Within limits, of course; spells cannot be unleashed until they’re charged up and each casting requires a recharge, which means matching up more tokens. Some of your opponents will toss around magic as well, and although they don’t have quite the repertoire you do, allowing them to collect the colored tokens they need to charge their spells (each spell-wielding creature uses tokens of a specific color) is asking for trouble.
Magical Mysteries is fast-paced but there’s a definite strategic element as well. Frantic clicking will accomplish nothing but a rapid exhaustion of your mana, but a plodding, chess-like approach won’t get you very far either. The challenge is to stay focused, think fast and make the right moves without wasting too much time obsessing over whether they’re the best moves. Unfortunately, the game isn’t terribly helpful in that regard. There’s no in-game guide to token properties, which makes it tricky to maximize the effectiveness of your spells, and there’s also no spell charge indicator, so it’s impossible to know how close you are to unleashing the sunburst you so desperately need to finish off your opponent.
It all adds up to a rather distinct feeling of not really knowing what’s going on, and I never entirely shook the feeling that I was missing out on something or not playing as well as I could have, simply because I felt as though I was being kept in the dark. It’s also very Spartan in presentation; the visuals are sharp and the music is quite nice but there’s very little variety to any of it, and it becomes very repetitive, very quickly.
That unfortunate lack of attention to the extras keeps Magical Mysteries: Path of the Sorceress from being exceptional, but it is a decent game that serves up an interesting and strategic match-3 challenge. Fans of the genre who don’t mind that minimalist approach may very well find it a decent way to waste a few hours; everyone else would be well-advised to try the demo.