How Metroidvania is it? High Fit. Mage is short but it checks all of the Metroidvania boxes.
Primary Challenge: Ranged Combat
Time to beat: ~1 hours
Review Info: The Steam review code for Mage was provided by the Developer.
Buy Mage if you like…
- Mini Metroidvanias
- Playful Banter
- Collecting MacGuffins for Completion
- Challenge Running
▼ Review continues below ▼
Mage is what I like to call a “Mini-Metroidvania”. It’s only about 30 minutes long not counting challenge mode options, and it comes at a budget price to match its length. If you’re looking for a meaty Metroidvania experience, then Mage isn’t for you. However if you’re the type who enjoys huge epics that take dozens of hours, or enjoys playing a MMOs or MOBA games, sometimes you just need a break. In that case if you’re itching for a Metroidvania and don’t want to commit 10-20 hours for a standard length one, a Mini-Metroidvania like Mage is the perfect solution. Compared to the other Mini Metroidvanias I have reviewed at this point what Mage brings to the table is a fun straightforward power progression and amusing banter between its two main characters.
The presentation for Mage is reminiscent of Newgrounds flash games from ten years ago. Everything looks like it was crafted in Microsoft Paint with a liberal usage of basic shapes and default colors. The map screen is just a bunch of squares with lines drawn between them indicating possible pathways. None of these low value assets come across as simply the result of laziness however. It’s very possible the developer simply doesn’t have the art abilities to do anything better, but the graphics feel more playful than bad.
The way the game controls is likely the reason the presentation doesn’t seem like a failure. Combat itself is awkward with some wonky hitboxes, but the design is self-aware enough to never let that get in the way of it being fun to scutter around the game’s hallways anyway. Monsters are more like minor obstacles than a primary challenge, and the bosses mercifully give you three hit points to aid in your survival against them. Each boss is also more of a clever puzzle rather than a challenge of your dexterity.
The main source of fun from Mage is wandering the game hallways looking for the next power-up and wondering what it’s going to let you do when you find it. Power progression is stark and rapid, as you’d expect given the length of the game. Every spellbook is an immediate relief from your previous limitations, and you even achieve ultimate power by the end of the story. Mage captures that Metroidvania feeling of conquering the environment perfectly.
Just having a fun short dungeon to explore would be fine by itself, but adding value to Mage’s playful emulation of the genre is the bottom part of the screen where dialog pops up over the course of your journey. Our protagonist and his devil possessor converse back and forth over just about every action you take in the game. The hero childishly comments on how many monsters you’ve killed and how good it feels to find new abilities, which is usually met with chiding remarks by the other character. Every time you die, the devil talks about how fun it was to see you suffer and how much he hates you. It’s all very silly, but it was enough to bring a smile to my face. The overall story itself is predictable within the first five seconds of playing, but it nicely sets the tone that this game is nothing more than a silly romp.
None of what Mage has to offer is particularly challenging, but it does a great job fulfilling its purpose as a Mini-Metroidvania. There is a speed-run mode and a no-death mode if you want to milk a little more out of your $3, but I think the adventure mode is fine as an easy way to quench that thirst for power-up driven exploration without taxing too much of your precious time. While there are other Mini-Metroidvania games available with more interesting difficulty and better polish, the whimsical experience Mage provides is still one worth recommending.
Hitboxes are a little loose, but it's still functional enough to be fun
No real Platforming challenges to speak of
There are 20 hidden relics in the world to seek out as you're completing the main path
No puzzles to speak of
Though everything about the plot is predictable from the start, the banter between the devil and the Mage is campy and fun
It's playfully bad MS Paint art that has a certain charm to it
Appropriate if not forgettable
There isn't much reason to replay the main adventure, but there are a few challenge modes that can bring some extra playtime
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