Mana Chronicles review

Mana Chronicles review

Mar 2, 2011

When I first saw Mana Chronicles, I jumped at the opportunity to review it. A 2D, hack & slash adventure set in a fantasy world seemed like just the kind of old-school gaming I could sink my teeth into. Unfortunately, before long, I wanted to spit it back out. What went wrong?

Mana Chronicles starts out by introducing you to a few of the key characters you’ll be controlling and interacting with throughout the game in the first of many long dialogue sequences. Fortunately, you can skip over these, but some of them are actually pretty funny. Although, whether they’re supposed to be funny is open to debate, since they tended to be riddled with spelling and grammatical errors.

The controls are very basic, consisting of a simple directional pad to move around and a few buttons to attack enemies and cast magic spells with. They can be very tricky, however, as the inaccurate directional pad makes it difficult to line up with enemies. Meanwhile, most of the time, you’re just mashing the attack button repeatedly to dispatch enemies, occasionally unleashing a magic attack on a larger group of enemies.

Of course, what’s an action RPG without RPG elements? In this case, you can level up your character while collecting loot from fallen enemies or finding it in chests, barrels and other objects by smashing them open. You have to love the concept of a world where every interaction comes down to, basically, either smashing it to bits or obliterating it with a blast of magic.

Throughout each stage you’ll find weapons, armor and enchanted items that boost your stats or provide much needed bonuses, but it’s not like you’ll be hurting too badly without them. At the very least, it gives you a reason to go through an area a few more times.

Actually, you will want to go through some areas more than once, as you’re assigned a grade based on your performance at the end of each. Also, you’ll be on the look out for scrolls that unlock challenge stages that you can access through the main menu. Completing the challenges can be a bit tricky, but they definitely add to the replay value.

Finally, I can’t let this game go without mentioning the graphics. The 2D graphics are bright and colorful, but appear poorly rendered with heavy aliasing and worse animation. At first, I wasn’t sure if this was supposed to be part of the old school charm or a sign of bigger problems, but the fact that there are huge, ugly gaps at the sides of the screen just adds to the overall poor quality of this game.

Unless you’re ok with the low quality feel of the graphics and the repetitive gameplay, I’d have to recommend passing on Mana Chronicles. I had high hopes going into it but ended up being disappointed when I learned how rudimentary the gameplay actually is. Adding to that were the low production values that really killed this one.

Mana Chronicles review Rundown

4
Graphics/Sound - While the sound is mostly ok and the music is fittingly epic, the graphics are a major failure. Poor scaling, aliasing and animation. If you're going to do 2D graphics, you need to make them pop. At the very least, make sure they are clean and scaled appropriately.
5
Game Controls - Not great. The directional pad seemed unresponsive, at times, and I had a difficult time lining up my character for attacks. Not quite broken, but could have been a lot better.
6
Gameplay - You can either do old school, hack & slash action completely right or completely wrong. Mana Chronicles tends to get it right. The variety of magic attacks helps make it more than simply mashing the attack button for the entire game, but then, that is exactly what this is.
7
Replay Value - I don't really see myself going back into this one anytime soon. However, the challenge stages, loot and performance scoring did offer a reason to. So, if you find yourself enjoying the game, it's nice to know there's a variety of things for you to do.
5.5
Overall - Poor production values, sloppy mistakes and boring, repetitive gameplay make this an average game, at best.

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Dale Culp
Dale Culp has been writing about video games in print and on the web for the better part of the last 10 years. From the Atari 2600 to the Xbox 360 and beyond, he's covered just about everything. You'll find his work in places such as TheWeekender.com, GoLackawanna.com, Gamesylvania.com, EscapistMagazine.com and even IGN.com
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