As one of the oldest genres in the world of video games, it usually takes quite a lot for a platformer to set itself apart from the rest of the pack. The platformer sphere can often seem an overcrowded place as many indie developers create games that are no different than their counterparts. Platformers today need an element that makes the platforming experience an entirely new one. CrazyDreamz: MagiCats Edition is well on its way to redefining what a platformer can and should be. Fusing enjoyable gameplay with an educational experience. MagiCats is a world where the player can learn the basics of coding while shaping the level around them.
MagiCats is a game where you play as MagiCat, a cat who, naturally, possesses magical abilities. This magic includes the ability to shoot fireballs out of his staff, but the most impressive tool in his toolbelt. His toolbelt gives him the ability to manipulate the world around him. MagiCat can use the basics of coding to change the way elements within his world operate. This includes changing the behavior of objects such as platforms of terrain. Even controlling the movements of enemies within the level. The game encourages users to garner an understanding of coding elements in order to reach the level’s goal.
The game features an “Adventure” mode, which is really only good for teaching how the game works. The user is first guided through a number of tutorial levels, followed by levels teaching the user how to build the environment around them. Finally how to code the behavior of the elements around them. After that, adventure mode ends, but the real appeal of the game comes in the form of building and sharing levels with the MagiCats community. Users can build their own worlds and code certain objects to behave however they like to make enjoyable, funny, or simply difficult levels. These levels are presented to the player in a way very similar to Super Mario Maker, i.e. displaying a community rating, personal best time, and completion rate derived from all attempts made by the community to pass said level.
The scope to which creators can code their levels is actually quite large. Each element (enemy, obstacle, etc.) in a level possesses certain functions which prompt the element to behave in a certain way (walk forward, jump, turn around, self-destruct, levitate, etc.). These functions can be used within conditional statements or loops to establish a constant behavior adopted by the element. It challenges those new to the world of programming to think about how to achieve a goal while having fun in the meantime.
What I Liked
As somebody who considers myself a novice to the world of programming, I found it enjoyable to have a means of practicing programming basics while still having fun. MagiCats won’t make you a full stack developer overnight. But it does prompt users to think critically and more “programmer-like”. The best part about this supplement to coding knowledge is that it feels like any other enjoyable game more so than a homework assignment. This game has great potential to introduce those new to the programming realm. Whether middle-aged or in elementary school, to the basics of programming like functions, conditional statements, and loops. I think that the game’s aesthetic, especially MagiCat himself, is very nice.
The animations and physics of the game seem very solid. The online level sharing works phenomenally as I was able to access other players’ levels with ease. Players are even given the option to sort uploaded levels by featured, new, best rated, most difficult, and in-dev levels. This allowed me to find exactly what I was looking for quickly. Players are also given the option to download any other player’s uploaded level. While the servers were acting wonky when I tried to download another player’s level, this concept is great as it would enable players to reverse engineer the work done by others. Something that programmers will often do in real life. Additionally, players are able to build onto the already phenomenal levels created by their peers.
I see great potential in the benefit derived from being able to download and edit the levels produced by other players and would consider it one of my favorite features of the game.
What Can Be Improved
The main issue with the game is that it is still pretty buggy. This is to be expected as the game is only in version 0.2. But it was still difficult to get through the Adventure mode without getting confused. In Adventure mode, you are taught how the game works by another cat. The dialogue bubbles appearing above this cat’s head scroll very quickly, and once all of the dialogue has been displayed on the screen, the dialogue bubble immediately disappears without the user confirming that they have read the dialogue itself. This made it very difficult to understand what the game was encouraging me to do next. I had to pretty much self-teach myself how to play the game (luckily, this wasn’t very challenging at all).
However, the online mode, AKA the best mode, seemed relatively unscathed by these sorts of bugs. Though the physics themselves did seem buggy at times. The developers have made this issue easy to address however as users have the option on any level to report bugs that they have encountered. Considering the game is still in early development, I would cut the developers some slack concerning the number of bugs present in the game. The potential this game poses greatly outweighs any minor setbacks that the bugs produce.
Platformers in today’s gaming environment truly need to set themselves apart. MagiCats manages to do this perfectly. MagiCats reinvents not only platformers but also those platformers that allow users to create their own levels, such as Super Mario Maker. The utilization of programming basics such as conditional statements and loops encourages players to think like programmers. All the while the player is simply enjoying their game playing experience. I look forward to the improvements MagiCats has in store for us! And hope that the developers can improve it towards the enormous potential it presents currently. You can check it out on Steam if you are interested.