Abraca: Imagic Games is an adorable party game that is exactly 50 per cent platformer and 50 per cent brawler – although one certainly steals the spotlight.
Although the tutorial explains it in an overly-complicated way, the premise of Abraca is actually very simple. Up to four local Players take on the role of a prince-and-princess duo, each of whom play a vital role in supporting the team’s success. The couples are actually really cute too, featuring classic fairy tale inspired characters like Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, with a bit of an edgy spin.
The goal of the game is for the prince to navigate the dungeon and defeat the boss at the end in order to save his princess from a lockbox. (No, seriously, the pimp-king host locked these princesses in a box.)
Up to four princes compete in a platformer-style race one at a time while each of the other princes control enemies and hazards in order to stop them. The princesses, on the other hand, fight to the death in an arena brawler within a locked chest. Whichever princess is successful in the fight will grant her prince more hearts in the next round, increasing his ability to survive in the race to come.
Each couple is unique in both appearance and functionality – especially the princesses. Each one has a different skill set than the other, with different fighting moves and mobility. The magical Snow Queen prefers to distance herself from enemies and fling ice shards, while enemies too close to the heavyweight princess Gretel are crushed in seconds.
The platforming race portion of the game is incredibly fun. Princes have 60 seconds to get as far as they can in a nine-stage dungeon while the other players attempt to slow their progress. It felt like every time I was almost through one of the dungeon’s rooms, another player would toss a projectile at me – and because of this, I felt no mercy when I was the one gunning for them.
I couldn’t decide whether I was having more fun as the prince or as the enemies, and that’s a very good thing. As the "chosen one", princes navigate through the dungeon while avoiding player-controlled projectiles and hazards. The difficulty of each stage is decided entirely on the skill of your friends. The platforming mechanics work flawlessly - if you’ve ever played a Mario game, you’re set. The movement feels solid and within minutes I was navigating the stages as easily as my frenemies (friends that are currently enemies because of Abraca) would allow me to. The race is truly where Abraca shines.
Once the racing portion of each turn ends, the princesses duke it out to see who can best support their prince. The princess fight feels like a fully fleshed-out fighting game with plenty of different moves and combos. Of course, most of your friends will probably just button mash, but I felt like once I had gotten used to playing as one of the princesses I had a real advantage over button mashers.
The arena portion has several modes with differing objectives. The objectives are randomly chosen each round – sometimes you’ll be playing keep-away with a crown, sometimes you’ll be collecting gingerbread men, and sometimes it will be a straight-up deathmatch. The variation in modes is refreshing, and it was great to have different objectives each round because the last-princess-standing deathmatch mode got a little stale after a while.
The two modes feel very different from each other, so much so that there was a bit of a disconnect for me at first. As soon as I was in platformer mode and really starting to unleash my Mario-trained running and jumping skills, I was turned into a frog and my turn ended, only to have the game do a 180 and switch to a brawler. It’s a sharp change in gameplay that I didn’t like at first, but the two modes do compliment each other and it definitely keeps players from getting to comfortable with either gameplay style. After a while, the two modes combined feel like playing Mario Party with the same mini-game over and over.
For solo players, there’s a challenge mode – which are small time-based missions that have players break targets or other small objectives. Basically, the challenges exist to help players better understand the game. That’s great, and they’re fun, but for a local-only party game there should be an option to play the main game against CPU players. The challenge mode is really just a compliment to the main game, and isn’t really substantial enough to justify purchasing the game exclusively for solo play. The challenges live up to their name though, and acing each level is actually really tough.
Abraca is a beautifully designed fairy tale world with plenty of cute creatures and colourful dungeons. Very few things took me out of the feeling of being in a fairy tale world, other than the game-show style intermission between the race and the arena. In my experience, visual glitches and technical issues were almost nonexistent, but occasionally a long black bar would block the top half of the screen.
As a whole, Abraca is a great party game. The game features a gorgeous atmosphere with exciting races that kept me coming back for another round or ten. It combines excellent competitive platforming with a fleshed-out brawler to make a party game that's easy to play for gamers of any skill level. The main factor that defines the quality of any party game is how much it makes you hate your friends, and Abraca does so while maintaining a charming and innocent facade.
As a side note - and off-the-record review wise - although the game is advertised as a local-only party game, I feel like there’s so much wasted potential with a lack of online play. I think Abraca could have a massive online community, given its easy-to-learn, hard-to-master gameplay.