With the latest Harry Potter film already setting box office records, there’s no doubt we’re about to see a big surge in the public’s interest in witchcraft and wizardry. Unfortunately, Harry Potter fans will find a limited selection of wizard-centric apps the App Store: there’s currently only one official app available, and it’s mostly a promotional vehicle for the movie rather than an engrossing game. Fortunately, there are a handful of other wizard apps on the marketplace, and one of them — a free game called Magic Wars(iTunes Link) — may be exactly what you’re looking for.
The game was put together by pocketfungames, a Y Combinator startup that specializes in iPhone games. The company originally planned to focus on dating-based applications, but has since shifted gears, looking to take advantage of the fact that many iPhone games still fail to leverage the phone’s Network Effect and integrate social features. In some senses this is a return to the company’s roots, as it was was previously a developer of social games on Facebook.
The game is a fairly basic online RPG that lets you boost your stats through brief training games as well as duels with other wizards. You interact with other players through social features like messaging and guilds, and can choose to battle wizards worldwide or only those who live nearby. It also features a number of elements obviously inspired by the Harry Potter series, including placement into a certain class of wizards (i.e. a ‘house’) depending on your personality traits.
By far my favorite part of the app is the way it handles battles. Whenever you go to cast a certain spell, the application presents you with a motion you need to make with the phone (standing in for your wand), and the incantation you have to speak aloud. Movements can include things like jerking your hand swiftly above your head and waving it in a semicircle, which makes you look ridiculous but also makes the game feel a bit more ‘authentic’. After casting your spell, the game rates you on your performance which determines how much damage is inflicted on your opponent. In my testing I had trouble ever reaching a spell’s maximum potential, though I can’t tell if this is because the app’s sensitivity is off or if I’m just not very good at it.
But while the gameplay is surprisingly fun, the app could really use some work — some parts of it look fairly polished, while others simply look like generic buttons (the developers should strongly consider getting some more professional art assets in the game given the demographic it’s targeting). Still, it’s a good start.
Lewis says that the application launched three weeks ago and is now pulling 2,000 downloads a day. The game offers a free version, but it’s also going to offer “booster packs” for its virtual currency, which allows players to increase the number of spells they can perform. The company also has a number of other games in the works, though Lewis declined to reveal any details (I suspect the new games will have a bigger focus on the iPhone’s GPS capabilities).