Most people know Frozenbyte from the Trine games which have always been a blast to play. While I played a bit of Trine and Trine 2, my first real exposure to Frozenbyte was through Has Been Heroes on the Switch. I’m a big fan of roguelikes and this being on the Switch around launch was perfect. When they announced Nine Parchments, I was excited but also a little concerned. Having played the demo, most concerns were put to rest and now after the final game has been patched to solve one of my biggest problems, Nine Parchments has turned out to be an excellent co-op RPG.
If you’ve ever wanted a game that was Magicka and Diablo III meets Harry Potter, Nine Parchments is the game for you. You play as one of many drop outs in a wizard school. Your aim is to get to the Nine Parchments. For the most part, the narrative and story take a backseat to the action which is pretty amazing. In fact while this can be played and enjoyed solo, multiplayer is where it shines.
After a brief tutorial, your journey begins. The game is divided into multiple levels that look fantastic. Boss fights occur at regular intervals as well. The core loop here is play through, pickup items and other loot, unlock more spells, unlock characters, and repeat. When you begin, you get access to two characters and can eventually unlock 8 in total with 4 variations each that have different starter spells. Each character has skill trees as well and the customization is nice and deep. This adds to the replay value as well. The best part about all of the equipment and skill selection is that it is all very accessible and at no point does anything here feel overwhelming.
Gameplay is akin to a twin stick shooter in some ways across an isometric level. The two analog sticks control movement and aiming. Triggers and shoulder buttons control the elemental spells and switching between them. The controls are great and playing on the Switch in handheld mode between breaks has been fantastic. When you get a friend or two to tag along the journey is where this comes into its own. There is friendly fire which makes things even more hilarious and sometimes frustrating but it works great online and locally.
Speaking of multiplayer, the Switch version has a few more options here than other platforms. For one, a split joy-con mode is available that lets you basically get a 2 player setup on the same Switch screen wherever you are. Local wireless is an option as with most Switch releases for playing with others have their own Switch. Online multiplayer has drop in support as well as creating a party from the get go and playing. I’d recommend using a voice chat app somewhere for sure if you do play on playing online with friends. This is also a game that deserves to be played with headphones. The sound design is very nice and the general polished presentation and feel is also felt in the music and audio here.
I went into this expecting visuals akin to the Trine games and was not disappointed. Not only has Frozenbyte created a gorgeous set of levels here but everything runs great. In fact performance has been very good in both handheld and docked modes. I’ve gotten to play Nine Parchments on both PS4 and Nintendo Switch and vastly prefer the Switch version just for the portable aspect. The save system and regular checkpoints allow for getting a level or two in quickly. When it comes to visuals and performance, this is definitely one of the better conversions on the Switch and in many cases the visuals on the handheld seem too good to be true. The art direction here is often wallpaper worthy.
At launch there was an issue where campaign progress would overwrite based on online or offline mode allowing you to keep a single one going only. This has been fixed and now the only flaw with Nine Parchments is that the single player feels repetitive after a bit. I wish there was a way to have friends download a free app and join your session akin to how Download Play used to work on 3DS .
There’s a lot to love here and Nine Parchments is absolutely worth checking out for any fans of games like Magicka and the like. The controls are great and I still can’t get over how good it looks overall. I never thought something that controlled like a twin stick shooter set in a world similar to Harry Potter would be this much fun.