Many years ago, I remember when I was first introduced to “choose your own adventure books.” I remember finding one of these tucked away in the classroom library. It was a simple book, one of those Encyclopedia Brown-esque tales that consisted of a couple of preteens solving some mundane mystery at the town carnival. These stories were fun, easy to digest, and gave the reader the feeling that their choices would alter the story in a significant way. This real-time storytelling has since worked its way into the medium, enabling writers to tell stories with multiple outcomes, and give the player the power to make decisions. The success of this style of writing resurrected the point-and-click adventure game and has led to a slew of critically and commercially successful games like Telltale’s The Walking Dead. It has also led to absolute garbage like Magic and The Lost Kingdom.
Truthfully I didn’t know what to make of this and I decided to keep an open mind. Magic and The Lost Kingdom isn’t actually a game, it’s a visual novel, so I could forgive the graphics or lack thereof. This game had the difficult task of being graded solely on the merits of its writing, as there are no levels, difficulty settings, power-ups or actual gameplay. It’s simply reading.
And so my book report begins.
The story opens with Maru, a 15-year old magician, lazily lying about and day dreaming. His grandfather suddenly burst onto the scene to chastise Maru, and then they’re suddenly attacked by a giant bird, and then Maru discovers he’s royalty and that his family has been exiled unfairly. All this happens in the first few pages, with no real exposition or explanation. That’s how bizarre this VN is. Things just happen and are sorta, kinda explained afterwards, but the story is moving at such a brisk pace that there’s really no time to mull over what just happened. That, and the art work is pretty ugly. It’s a generic anime look that’s often seen on DeviantArt or something similar. Decent at best, amateurish and sloppy at worst.
Every two pages or so, you’re prompted with a decision. Should I listen to Grandpa and continue practicing my magic or continue to be lazy? Should I fight these rats with magic or my fist? What’s annoying about Magic and The Lost Kingdom is that there is a right or wrong answer. You decisions don’t alter the story so much as drives it to a halt if you make the wrong choice. When that happens, if you didn’t save, you have to start the story from the beginning. And sometimes you’ll think “well, this decision doesn’t seem life threatening,” and you end up killing yourself. There’s a lot of ambiguity in the text that led to many restarts.
The text itself isn’t too complex, about as challenging as 7th grade novel. What’s more troubling is the constant stream of typos and tense changes in the text. It’s not enough to ruin the text (the content does that on its own) but did does ruin any sense of immersion that the VN had going. It seems like these issues come from a poor translation, apparent from the developers’ Korean titles. It ends up feeling cheap and lazy, and even a dollar is too much. There are some many other books, games, and visual novels that can be bought for the same, and are infinitely better.
Magic and the Lost Kingdom tells a lame, cliché story about magic that reads like a middle-schooler’s creative writing assignment. They get an “A” for effort, but not much else.
Magic and The Lost Kingdom tells a boring story, and most of the fun I had was dealing with its inanities.