Frozenbyte has a history of making high-quality cooperative gaming experiences. Set in the same world as their fantastic Trine series, Nine Parchments will have you and a few friends unleashing magic on plenty of dastardly creatures. Let's check it out.
Nine Parchments puts you in the wizard boots of a ragtag group of apprentices who go on a journey to obtain 9 magical parchments. Although arguably underprepared, their spirits definitely won't hold them back from achieving greatness. It's played similarly to your standard twin-stick shooter where one stick moves and the other aims. You also hold a trigger to fire magic, use the other trigger for a melee attack, swap spells with the shoulder buttons, and tap buttons to jump and "Blink" which warps you a short distance ahead and may provide some sort of bonus depending on your current character and loadout. Speaking of which, you'll unlock an assortment of staves, hats, spells, and boosts that make you a more capable wizard as you progress. Considering you can play cooperatively with up to four players either locally or online, there's a lot of customization available to optimize however you'd like to play.
The core gameplay involves journeying from one end of a stage to the other while taking out all the enemies along the way. Whereas most twin-stick shooters allow you to mindlessly shoot and dodge in order to emerge victorious, Nine Parchments requires a decent amount of strategy and quick-thinking. For example, you have to pay attention to your enemies' elements and weakspots if you want to take them down effectively. You don't want a foe to reflect your spell back at you, do you? The required tactical aspect combines with your need for precision to make a challenging yet rewarding dynamic. This is especially true during the unique and memorable boss fights. Taking those monstrosities down requires complete focus and once they fall, the sense of accomplishment is unrivaled.
Nine Parchments allows you to play with up to four simultaneous players either locally or online (as I've already mentioned). Doing so amplifies the fun factor a great deal as it not only makes the gameplay livelier, there are also some cooperative gameplay mechanics. For example, if you cross a laser-like spell with a similar one from a friend then you can create a more devastating stream that'll destroy anything in its path. Overall, when it comes to multiplayer twin-stick shooters, Nine Parchments is one of the best.
As expected from Frozenbyte, Nine Parchments' visuals and sound are top-notch. The environments are varied and absolutely gorgeous while the characters and enemies are all unique-looking and beautifully animated. The music is perfect for a fantastical adventure, the effects make each onscreen action satisfying, and the voice cast does a great job of bringing personality to every character. Although it's a new game, Trine fans will appreciate the familiar atmosphere and delight in eventually exploring The Astral Academy and may even unlock Amadeus the Wizard as a playable character. My hat is off to Frozenbyte for Nine Parchments' phenomenal presentation.
Unfortunately, Nine Parchments isn't quite as impressive as Trine although it's still a fantastic game. The main issue that I have with it is that it doesn't do enough with the gameplay. I would have loved to see some additional modes such as a multiplayer competitive component via arena matches or mini-games. Instead, there's just the main story campaign. Also, the lack of puzzles is a huge missed opportunity considering the Trine series is full of ingenious puzzles to work through. Finally, there are a lot of somewhat long stretches of the campaign where nothing happens. These parts are pretty boring so they could have easily spruced them up by putting puzzles there to kill two birds with one stone. These negative points don't add up to much but they're still rather disappointing.
If you're looking for a cooperative twin-stick shooter then you can't do much better than Nine Parchments. The fantastical world and challenging yet rewarding gameplay is perfect for having a magical time with a few chums by your side.
- + Tight twin-stick gameplay that rewards strategy, precision, and quick-thinking
- + Awesome graphics and sound
- + Perfectly implemented multiplayer
- - Could use more modes besides just the main story campaign
- - Long stretches with nothing to do
- - Lack of puzzles is a missed opportunity