Incantation

Eventually all good video game platforms take that long walk into the sunset as a new generation begins.  While it is sad to leave them behind for a shiny new toy you also get some classic games in those last years.  The PlayStation 2 had God of War 2 and the beyond excellent Persona 4 as a swansong while Twilight Princess was the GameCube’s last hurrah.  We remember the great ones and try our best to forget the shovelware that accompanied them; the number of crap games Sony allowed publishers to crap out for the PS One for $10 should be a crime against humanity.  Incantation falls into that category.  You’ve probably never heard of it but trust me you didn’t miss anything special.

Titus Interactive was not a very active publisher during the 16-bit era, releasing less than 5 SNES games by 1995.  Yet in 1996 something changed and they had a grand total of 6 new releases for the entire year: Oscar, Whirlo, Realm, Prince of Persia 2, Power Pigs of the Apocalypse, and Incantation.  I’m sure that sounds like an unprecedented amount of support for a platform in its twilight years.  However outside of two of those games they were all terrible.  At this point I should also mention Titus were not well liked as a publisher either.  Incantation looks like it could be a lost gem but is far too repetitive and simple to be considered good.  There is a reason it has languished in obscurity.

Max is a magician yet in terms of functionality his magic wand is very similar to the mega buster.  Unlike that series however his arsenal of spells isn’t terribly exciting.  You can carry two spells at once which combine to create your attack.  Normally this would be a deep system with plenty of combinations however there are only 3 spells; fire, bombs, and homing missiles.  The bombs have such short range that they are worthless and you won’t see the homing weapon that often.  You are probably better off using the default fire spell anyway.  The only other attack you possess is a ground stomp used to break weak floors and platforms.

The goal of each stage is to find 3 stalks of wheat (at least that’s what they look like) to pay the toll allowing you to face the end level boss.  The biggest knock against Incantation is that it is just so boring.  More than half of the levels are as straightforward as possible leaving no room for exploration. It makes having to collect 3 leaves to continue pointless.  Not that you have any reason to even want to explore the stages anyway.  The few that have wide open spaces are mired in bad collision and hit detection.  Trying to figure out just how close or far you can get to an enemy is a crap shoot.  Sometimes half of your body can touch and it won’t register yet the slightest graze from a worm sends Max flying.

What hurts the game even worse is its repetition.  There are twelve stages but most are incredibly short at less than five minutes.  Each environment is recycled two or three times in a row which isn’t so bad on its face but it comes across as lazy here.  Rather than create a unique layout while using the same theme they have simply shuffled the assets around and created a slight variation on the same stage.  It gets old fast.  I haven’t even mentioned fighting the same bullet sponge bosses 2 or three times in a row as they use the same attack pattern each time!

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As much as I have harped on Incantation no one can say it isn’t a pretty game.  The art is similar to Rayman and while it lacks that game’s vivid color palette the level of isn’t that far off.  The intricate background detail reminds me of Flink and the Adventures of Lomax, similar games that also from Europe.  Surprisingly Incantation is not a port of an Amiga game like most of Titus output although it certainly could pass for one.  Unfortunately the prettier backgrounds wear out their welcome as they are repeated multiple times in a row.  That repetition extends to the small gallery of enemies and bosses.  The music sadly does not match the graphics and is completely forgettable.  At least you know where the money went.

In Closing

Incantation would have required a significant overhaul in order to be a worthwhile alternative to the many classics already available for the SNES.  At this point the game is rare and expensive and definitely not worth the price.  There are far too many better platformers out there deal with something so lackluster.

One thought on “Incantation

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