Review: Hocus Pocus
At a Glance
|ESRB Rating:||NR - Not Rated|
|My Rating:||Ages 10 and up|
|Review Published On:||May 20th, 2020|
|Played on:||Martha & Thaddeus|
Since this is an older game, there is no autosave feature. Instead, you'll need to manually save your progress by bringing up the pause menu (press ESC), selecting the option to save your game, and then selecting the save slot you want to use.
The main problems with this title revolve around some of the concepts and imagery being shown, specifically some of the background images and some story elements that haven't aged well.
Moving on, Hocus Pocus is not only the name of the game, it's also the name of the protagonist and player character. Hocus is a young wizard who dreams of being a member of the prestigious Wizard Council, and husband of the lovely Popopa. The problem is, he's not exactly the most skilled wizard out there, and the many doodles down the side of his spellbooks doesn't help matters. Still, one of the members of the Wizard Council, a grumpy wizard named Terexin, decides to give Hocus a chance to prove himself. The various Magical Paths have become dangerous places, as evil wizards and twisted beings have infested them. In order to defeat these various evils, Hocus must search the Paths, find the Magical Crystals that store their power, and engage them in magical combat.
And thus the stage is set: you must search each level in order to find every Magical Crystal hidden within, and defeat the enemies of the Council. Only then will you have saved the day, earned Hocus a place on the Wizard Council, and won the heart of his beloved.
At one point in time, this was a shareware game, and like most shareware games of the late DOS era, Hocus' adventure was split into several episodes. This design allowed the first part of the game to be released for free, giving curious players a legal way to try the game before they had to spend money on it. In order to play the full game, you'd need to pay a "registration fee" via mail order. After a few weeks, a retail copy of the game would arrive in your mailbox, often with a shareware copy of another game published by Apogee.
The complete adventure spans four episodes. Each episode contains nine levels and focuses on a specific enemy of the Wizard Council. In order, you'll be facing off against the Mad Monks of Mellenwah, the insidious Tree Demons, the Harsh Gray Dragons of Higgendom, and the Wizard Council's ex-president Trolodon.
Sound good? Well, there's one small problem. Namely, the combat is a bit lackluster. It takes more shots that it really should to take down certain enemies. Many of the less powerful enemies tend to appear in fairly large groups, and this ends up filling the game with unnecessary bottlenecks. On the plus side, there are usually Quickfire potions near areas where large numbers of enemies spawn, so the problem can be mitigated somewhat. There's also a special "monster" in later stages (ie, in the non-free portion of the game) that explodes when shot, instantly slaying every monster on screen.
Aside from the combat, this is a pretty fun game as old DOS games go. The graphics are easily some of the best from the era, and the music (especially the title theme) is still impressive. If you like messing around with games from way back when, you'll probably agree that it's a fun (if unexciting) way to spend an evening or two.
Points of Interest
Concerns and Issues
The other problematic point in the story revolves around one of the magical paths that Hocus is trying to reopen. These paths can take people through time as well as space, and this specific path leads back to the land of the Beautiful Amazon Tribes Before the Time of Clothes Era. The all-male wizard council is rather excited about this path reopening, and immediately sets out to "study" the Amazons once they get the news. Obviously, it works as a joke, but it doesn't really fit with the otherwise child-friendly tone the game seems to be aiming for.