The Wizards (Enhanced Edition) | PSVR | Review

Carbon Studios has fulfilled a lifelong dream of mine. To actually feel like a full on bad ass wizard, casting spells with hand gestures and taking down giant monstrosities with relative ease.

Oddly enough, despite being ripe for it, PSVR has severely lacked in the bad ass wizard realm since launch. I mean sure, you can play a mage in Skyrim, but your spells come at the press of a button, you don’t have to work for them. Nothing quite compares to noticing a fireball headed in your direction and being able to quickly swing your left arm in a way that produces a shield, whilst simultaneously clenching and flipping your right hand in a manner that produces a fireball of your own, then tracking the enemy in a manner to lock on and physically flicking it towards them with a hefty, yet satisfying gesture. This is one of the easier combinations to pull off.

My personal favorite was the ring of diamonds spell (probably not the official name) where you close both fists in front of you – side by side – then raise your right hand and lower your left, this is followed up by sweeping both to the opposite position in a large semi-circle motion, essentially making a circle in front of you. If successfully pulled off, a ring of diamond shaped crystals will appear. If you touch them (one by one) they will fly off and auto lock on to any enemies on screen causing mass damage. Nothing felt quite as cool as pulling those bad boys up mid-fight, then making a dramatic circular gesture and unleashing them all at once – just decimating anything on screen.

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These are a few of the 6 element-based spells you can learn and upgrade during your play through. I won’t spoil the rest, but be assured they feel equally as cool.

Luckily the aiming of said spells is mostly tight. Occasionally, with the fireball spell, I had to adjust my flick or be sure I had locked on to an enemy before unleashing the fire towards them. It was only practice makes perfect though. Within an hour or two I was topping a multitude of creatures with precision. Frankly by that time there were a lot more interesting spells to play with anyway. This is part of the earnest charm of The Wizards. Just when you think “Is this it?” you get thrown a curve ball. Honestly at times it feels a little similar to DOOM VFR. Just a touch slower and using magic instead of guns.

I say this because most of the time when facing enemies. You’re facing a LOT of them at once, they come in waves, and you have to kill everything in the room before you can continue. Occasionally, you’ll get a surprise enemy burst out of a wall or something, but largely they stick to the arena-battle style of fighting. As such, you’ll find yourself franticly using your teleport to jump to a better location when an ogre gets too close. Don’t over use it though, it gets shorter and shorter each time you do.

Teleportation is not your only means of transportation, free roam is also accessible alongside teleportation. Making the movement mechanics feel comfortable to use and full of options.

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Giant bosses are one of the more fun changes of pace that show up during your play through. The first one is pictured above. This big bastard shows up after an evil mage performs a ritual of summoning. The first time you see his big, clammy hands climb over the wall in front of you is quite awe inspiring. VR is built for these moments. The following moments, however, involve you dodging enemies, the big guy lobbing everything but the kitchen sink at you…not to mention the floor occasionally turning into a pit of fire in several places. At some point you also have to hit the guy. You definitely feel like you earned it after you topple him.

One of the more interesting additions to the game are called Fate Cards. This cards can be found throughout the game in various chests. Each card offers a unique change to gameplay. Amongst other things, giving enemies and/or you, more or less health, and effectively making the game harder or easier. These can be stacked as long as they are not opposing. The introduction of these cards gives a bit of longevity to what is around a 5 to 6 hour title.

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The story itself is told in quite a charming way. Mostly through disembodied narration as you play. Nothing quite like a charming English guy telling you he fucked up multiple times after landing in various places you’re not supposed to.

Outside of killing beasties, there are plenty of puzzles to keep you going. These get particularly interesting with the introduction of time voids. Giant glowing purple time anomalies that give you fresh paths to areas in some kind of hidden plane of existence. It all comes together nicely to create an overall gaming experience that feels fulfilling and well thought out. If I had any complaints about the story mode it would be that the enemies do start to feel a touch repetitive at times, they are a decent variety, but due to there being so many, you often times feel like you’ve kind of “seen one, seen ’em all“.

Story mode isn’t the only way to enjoy the game though, there is also an arena mode for those that hate puzzles. Allowing you to test your skills against waves of enemies. Those fate cards become particularly useful here. Also good for practicing your spell casting before attempting a hard run at the story mode.

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The Wizards is not a tentpole game. Carbon Studio is not Bethesda. They are very much punching above their weight, but boy do they make every punch count.

Considering the indie sensibilities of the studio, they have put together an impressive display in The Wizards. Sometimes games can’t be quantified by just “nice graphics, nice gameplay, nice writing“. There is something more, a feel if you will, The Wizards has that. The hand gestures for spells add that je ne sais quoi that other games of its ilk are missing. It’s clearly a labor of love and that bleeds into every moment during your play through.

I highly recommend that if you enjoy mages and magic and fancy a chance at feeling like a bad ass wizard…you give this one a shot.

The Wizards releases on March 12th for PSVR.

Catch & Release | Review | PSVR

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I remember fishing.

I only went once or twice back in England, but always had a good time.

Admittedly that had more to do with the copious amount of drugs partaken in before getting anywhere close to sticking a maggot on a hook, but i still look back fondly on those trips and remember the rush of catching my first carp with a wry smile.

The worst part about fishing was always a combination of the weather and the wait. England is wet, dull, miserable even, so hanging around on the side of a lake for HOURS at a time in the small hope that you might get a nibble on the end of your line was somewhat of a chore.

Hence the drugs.

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I have since grown up (arguably) and no longer need recreational substances to enjoy a trip to the river. To be honest though, i rarely feel the call of the wild. I’d much rather just hang out in my basement and do things on my own terms.

Catch & Release is perfect for me.

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PSVR has had a few fishing games, although none of them really hit the nail on the head. I mean unless you like demon fish in a Final Fantasy setting or Dream Angling…whatever the hell that is.

Catch & Release seems to be the first game of its kind to actually get the idea of fishing right. Just you, a lake, and a mixture of relaxation and excitement for when you eventually do get a bite.

After the initial “what button does what” breaking-in phase, and a quick glance at the options, I was ready to hit the lake. Mercifully, everything is relatively simple and explained well. The VR settings don’t run awfully deep, but why would they need to? It’s not like we’re ripping around a futuristic racing track at 200mph. Rowing a boat is fairly intuitive and definitely doesn’t need a vignette for sharp turns.

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After rowing out to the center of the lake it’s time to get to grips with my surroundings. I notice a couple books, a sandwich, a beer, a stone, a radio, a cooler, some bait and of course, my rod.

The tutorial does a great job of explaining the opening salvo. So i thread my bait (much less icky than real life) and cast out. Within a minute or so i get a bite, and before i can even really register what’s going on, my line breaks.

Apparently this is going to be a little tougher than first thought.

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I need some tunes. So i reach for the radio and find the least audibly offensive station i can (hope you like country) and give it another shot. This game is all about give and take. If your fish is pulling hard, slack the line. If your fish isn’t doing much, reel it in. This to and fro is what eventually tires your enemy and allows you to pull it aboard. Once aboard you have two options – stick it in the cooler, or let it go.

You get cash either way, but the amount varies. Smaller fish should be thrown back, bigger fish kept and sold. You can even buy a small weighing station for the boat to determine if a fish is worth it or not, In fact you can buy a lot of things. Bait, food, drink, stones, hats, rods, all from your handy dandy magazine. Think the lake equivalent of Sky Mall.

Lake Mall…if you will.

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Honestly this is pretty much all there is to it. Which in my eyes, is fucking great!

Row boat, catch fish, buy stuff, catch bigger and/or more interesting fish…repeat.

Mix in some decent music and some fun VR distractions, like drinking virtual beer, and you’ve got me hook, line and sinker. Pun intended.

That’s all it ever needed to be. Just you and the lake. The fish genuinely feel massively procedural. It is exciting to get a whopper…and they do exist.

Being able to travel to different areas and make use of your little guide book to discover exactly what your fish likes bait-wise and its whereabouts, is fun, and makes you feel like you have to do a bit of detective work to truly get what you’re looking for. This makes it vastly more enjoyable when you finally hook it and start the fight to reel it in.

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Catch & Release is everything it needed to be. Light on exposition, fun mechanics, replayability, decent graphics and actually benefits from a VR setting. It’s the ultimate palette cleanser after digging into something more spooky or adrenaline peaking. If you’ve been looking for a relaxing fishing sim in VR…look no further.

You can see 30 minutes of uninterrupted gameplay right here and make up your own mind.

Catch & Release is available on PSVR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive & Windows Mixed Reality.