Magic. Ah yes, magic. Society as a whole has always had an obsession with magic. From tales by the Brothers Grimm, to Tolkien’s Middle Earth stories, and even Rowling’s Harry Potter, society continues to foster a penchant for magic. It manages to evoke humanity’s creativity, and need for the unknown.
As such, this obsession has found it’s way into various video games. One such example was released in 1995, when Apogee published Moonlite Software’s Hocus Pocus. Read on to discover if there was magic contained within.
Hocus Pocus at its core is a fairly generic action platforming game. You take control of a young wizard named Hocus, who must navigate his way through thirty-six levels to eventually destroy the evil wizard Torolodon (say that five times fast). Like most action platformers, you jump, collect gems, and defeat monsters (in this case with magic lightning). Finishing a level also involves you collecting all the crystal balls spread across the level, so that you may proceed.
While the game is fun, if not terribly original, it really manages to shine in the graphics department. Instead of the static backgrounds that were common in most platforming games of the time, you are presented with a multi-layered background that scrolls more slowly than the foreground. This creates a pseudo 3D-2D effect, in which the world outside the dungeon/castle has the illusion of depth. Different perspectives of this outside world are also achieved as you move around your environment. These effects actually become quite stunning at times, and manage to spruce up an otherwise simple platformer.
The game also managed to enroll the talents of George “The Fat Man” Sanger, who composed music for games such as The 7th Guest, Wing Commander I & II, and Ultima Underworld. While only presented in a limited MIDI form, the music is somewhat catchy, though borders on the repetitive at times.
If you’re looking for an example of good mid-90’s graphics, this is a game for you. If you’re looking for something that stands amongst the platforming all time greats, you’ll unfortunately need to look elsewhere. Don’t be mistaken, the game is fun, it just doesn’t do anything to push the genre forward in any definitive way. Like a lot of games in the 90’s, it uses a “variety over substance” approach in it’s development and subsequent marketing. There are “30 different kinds of monsters, including imps, ghosts, and dragons” within the game! And while some of them are sly references to other fictional worlds (the wizard who guides you looks like Gandalf, and some of the enemies are very similar to Ents), it isn’t enough to make the game great.
P.S. I should probably also note that the game has nothing to do with the movie released the previous year.