Published: 13 December 2016
Editor's Note: This is a review that I gave to Trever since I know the developer myself. The code was a review copy provided by the developer and there is a reference to Highland Arrow in the game. While we try not to be biased (and this is why I passed on the copy myself) keep that in mind!
Spell Casting: Meowgically Enhanced Edition is a tracing puzzle game in which you take the role of a young anthropomorphic cat who wants to be a wizard, but lives too far away from the school to attend in person. Since you can't go yourself you send away for the wizard correspondence course. The wizard school sends you a book to get started, and after you pass each lesson and exam you get another book. Each book is harder than the last, but the premise is the same. Score high enough on the practice tests, where you can see the lines to trace, and you can take the exam. On the exam the lines are gone, leaving you with waypoints to give you an idea where to go, but relying on your memory for the actual image. Score high enough on the exam and you get the next book.
Cute as a Kitten
The game design itself is cute. Complete with a story narrator that sounds like someone right out of an old-school children's movie, it's like playing a game designed by a classic children's storyteller. The pages in each book are cleverly illustrated with video game and other pop-culture references, and the art has a very nostalgic feel to it. Both, combined with the music, create an experience that will be fun for young and old gamers alike.
I enjoyed the game's design overall, though it is a little outside what I normally play. It feels very much like a mobile game with the look and feel of it. Even the gameplay works better as a mobile game, using a touchscreen rather than playing it on a PC with a mouse. The biggest fault I had with it early on was the failure notification. When you draw outside the line you hear a little sing-song "uh oh", which honestly about drove me to throw my mouse across the room. I had to turn the sound off, but I'd have liked a way to turn just that off and keep the music and other effects.
The rest of the design is good, and I can see this game appealing to fans of mobile puzzle games, and even kids. The developers put together a sort of Disney-like feel with the magic and storytelling. I didn't run into any bugs, or strange glitches during the play-through and there was even a Halloween themed magic book for the holiday. The puzzles got progressively more difficult as I advanced through each book, with the designs becoming more intricate.
Stay in the Lines
As I mentioned, each book becomes more difficult as you go along. Each puzzle has a name which is meant to be a spell. Most of the spells are hints about what the image is. In the beginning the practice pages show you which way to go along the lines, and remain relatively simple. There's only one way to go and you just have to stay on the line. As you go through, the designs start to add some cross-overs to make remembering the pattern more difficult. Eventually there is no direction on the practice puzzles and no discernible pattern right away.
When I first started playing I tried the game on my desktop, using a mouse to draw with. I didn't have a lot of luck when the patterns became more complicated. I just don't draw well with a mouse. I decided to load it onto my 2-in-1 laptop with a touchscreen, and use my drawing stylus as my 'wand'. That made the game a lot more playable in my opinion, and I'd recommend that setup for anyone looking into the game. Unless there is a plan to continue to release themed and holiday expansions, like the Halloween one, I don't see much replayability in the game. Once you learn the patterns and how to complete the page the only real benefit to doing it again is to get a higher score.