Nine Parchments (Switch) Review

Magicians Unite!

Nine Parchments is a cooperative top-down action RPG in the vein of games like Diablo or Gauntlet. It plays out more closely to Magicka, since instead of melee weapons, you primarily wield elemental spells. Though it has its faults, Nine Parchments is an engaging and challenging title, best experienced in multiplayer.

Here’s the Video Version for your viewing pleasure!

You play as one of eight different wizards in training, although only two are available at the start. After failing their wizarding exam, the young students set out to recover nine lost parchments, both to gain mystical power and to prove themselves as more than magical hazards. It’s a light plot that doesn’t go anywhere, but it serves its purpose.

Nine Parchments Beams.jpg
I went to Wizarding School for this.

The gameplay is simple: up to four players explore together through treacherous top-down environments. It uses a twin-stick control scheme; you move with the left analog stick and aim your magic with the right one, allowing you to simultaneously run and fire wherever you want. Each character begins with three predetermined spells, but you gain more as you retrieve parchments. I tend to prefer close-range combat in games, which is limited here due to your staff’s weak physical power, but I enjoyed experimenting with the 40+ different spells. Each falls into a different attack type – such as beam, projectile, or throwable bomb – and elemental property – like fire, ice, lightning, death, or life.

Nine Parchments Battle.jpg
Avada Kedavra!

Success revolves around casting the right spells against each foe. But it’s easier said than done, for a solo player at least. Most enemies are immune to their own element, sometimes a second element due to magic circles. And with only three starting spells, you may find yourself constantly waiting for your single effective one to recharge. Additionally, large enemy swarms will often bombard the screen, giving you little opportunity to blink, quite literally in this case, as your method of dodging is through a teleportation move called “Blinking.” Even after Blinking behind an enemy, it will usually quickly turn back towards you, its only target. This makes it particularly difficult to fight enemies that reflect frontal assaults. That said, I felt accomplished every time I survived a difficult, sometimes unfair onslaught.

Nine Parchments Solo.jpg
The game’s just a bit overwhelming in single player.

These issues are mitigated in multiplayer. With up to three teammates, not only do enemy encounters feel fair, but the overall experience is more entertaining with friends. The sense of comradery is strong in this game: surrounding enemies, healing and reviving each other, and combining beam attacks to create highly unstable magical blasts; combat is most satisfying when players are synergistic. However, not everyone will appreciate the friendly fire, and I found it most annoying when playing with randoms online. It can be hilarious with friends, and the mechanic balances out powerful spells, but I’d still have liked an option to turn it off to alleviate frustration. At least, there are serviceable options to invert the friendly fire or split the damage between characters.

Nine Parchments Characters.jpg
You can play as a wizard of many hats.

My online experience was smooth. I had no issues with lag or disconnections. And it was easy to host or join games, even ones in progress. However, any sort of chat system would have helped both to offset friendly fire and to laugh together. As it is, having random teammates is not as amusing as couch co-op or chatting together with friends online. Regardless, it’s commendable that these diverse player size options are present. Unfortunately, due to how save files currently work, it’s difficult to switch between playstyles. If you want to go from single-player to multiplayer or vice versa, you must write over your current playthrough and start from the beginning. Without a stage select, it’s incredibly inconvenient to be locked in to either style for a multi-hour game, but the developers at Frozenbyte thankfully plan to implement multiple save files eventually.

That aside, the progression balance is well thought out. Regardless of how many times you restart the game, all of your characters retain their levels. And in Nine Parchments, your levels don’t equate to stats, but instead to skill points that you can invest into a character’s unique skill trees. Through this system, you can handicap your character while playing with lower-leveled friends by not investing any skill points. Or you can jump into a game with a beefed-up character, reinvesting points however you wish. It may help when playing the toughest of four difficulty levels, hardcore mode, in which your game ends when your team wipes out – no retries. Thankfully, the other three settings are generous with checkpoints and unlimited retries.

Nine Parchments Multiplayer.jpg
I don’t think I could tell you what’s actually happening here.

A first playthrough will likely take about five to eight hours, but you’ll need to complete it multiple times to obtain everything. By playing as other characters with different starting spells, subsequent playthroughs may be very different. But as fun as combat is, it can get fatiguing. There are a small number of enemy types, and it gets tedious facing the same foes throughout the two dozen levels. Intense boss encounters break up the constant fodder fights, but there isn’t much beyond that. Dungeon crawling is bland, despite the beautiful set pieces borrowed from Trine, another Frozenbyte property. There are almost no puzzles to speak of, and exploration amounts to finding five hidden quills per level or treasure chests. Though aside from cosmetic hats, the only interesting loot consists of stat-granting staves that also activate special missions to unlock characters. Achievements that unlock character variations further increase replay value, provided you can get past the repetitive gameplay loop. At least a wonderful orchestral fantasy soundtrack accompanies the lush environments, and the in-game voice acting remains charming and rarely annoying.

Nine Parchments Boss.jpg
Bosses range from amazing mythical creatures to “The Treasure Mantis.”

Conclusion

Nine Parchments is Frozenbyte’s magical take on the top-down action RPG. The collection of characters and spells makes for an engaging experience, enhanced when playing with friends. There were some frustrating segments, due to a mix of enemy resistances and friendly fire. Otherwise, combat was solid, though I wish the environments were more substantial as opposed to simple, pretty backdrops. Regardless, this magical adventure is fun in bursts and will attract fans of the genre.

Score: 7/10

A review copy was used for this article. You can find this review on Miketendo64.

What are your thoughts on Nine Parchments? Have you played any games like it like Diablo, Gauntlet, or Magicka? What are your favorite games in the top-down action RPG genre? Please share any thoughts or questions you have in the comments section below! Thank you so much for reading and watching!

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29 thoughts on “Nine Parchments (Switch) Review

  1. Wingardium Leviosa! What a magical review! Nine Parchments was fun at first. It was like a top-down version of a Harry Potter game–and I’m a huge Potter fan. It took me some practice to get the hang of the dual stick controls. It feels funny to me to aim in one direction while walking in another, but it’s a very useful feature. The most annoying part was the friendly fire. I want to shoot my death beam indiscriminately without having to worry about hitting teammates. The backgrounds were very pretty. I do wish there were more puzzles and exploring to do. The skill tree was interesting in place of classic level-up stat boosts, but the grid itself was very confusing to look at. Overall this game had a little more frustration that I would’ve liked, but I had fun playing it with friends. Expecto Patronum!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much my Wizarding friend! I had fun playing together, but I can understand the frustrations of getting used to dual-stick controls. And the friendly fire doesn’t make it any easier or that much more fun for two people. Maybe you’d like it even more if it were an actual Harry Potter top-down RPG? 😉 Alohomora!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This looks kind of fun though it seems kind of unfair that it is so hard to take solo. Given it is on console I probably won’t end up playing it anyway, but still, it looks interesting.The description kind of reminded me of Magicka a bit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, this game was very much made for multiplayer. I did beat it in solo but it was more frustrating and tedious than whenever I played multiplayer. It’s very similar to Magicka from what I can tell about that series. Have you played Magicka? What did you think of it if you have?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve played a bit of Magicka. I don’t get very far into the game before I abandon it usually though I enjoy the bits I’ve played of it. There’s just nothing really in it that grabs me and makes me compelled to return to the game.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Sounds kind of like Helldivers meets Magicka, which sounds super rad on paper… but man, friendly fire gets old fast with me. And I’d mostly be playing with randoms with my weird schedule, so that’s kind of a turnoff. Ah well. Great review, either way!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks a lot man! I really appreciate it! 😀 I had to look up Helldivers, but it is very much in the same vein as those two – more so Magicka because of the fantasy setting. I’m with you on friendly fire. I get why it’s there, but I’d rather developers balance their games without the need for it. It’s really not that funny… Yeah, I wouldn’t suggest it if you can only play it alone or with randoms. You’d need that couch co-op or equivalent thereof to get the most out of this one.

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      1. Having the option to turn it off would be great. Like you said in the review, it’s a feature I’d only laugh at if I were playing with friends… not randos who thrive on trolling or genuinely don’t care about progression.

        Helldivers was made by the same devs as Magicka, IIRC.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I think the developers were just too committed to the idea of friendly fire – to the point where there are options to invert damage towards yourself or split the damage, but none to remove it completely. Thank goodness most randos I played with weren’t trollish. But without the ability to chat with them, there’s no strategizing, which means friendly fire WILL happen.

        Ahh, that makes sense. At least Helldivers has a different premise and setting, because fantasy is overused in this genre.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you as always friend! 😀 It had just come out after our Switch party, and I wish we had had the chance to play it together at the time! It really brings me back to the good old days of Gauntlet. We’ll definitely have to play this sometime! 🙂

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    1. That’s awesome! I’m glad you’re getting a lot of mileage from this game! Frozenbyte has been really good at fixing bugs and responding to feedback in their updates, so it’ll hopefully continue to improve.

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  4. Nice review Sir!! This game looked intriguing to me right off the bat as I’ve been going nuts waiting for a solid action RPG, particularly hearing about Titan Quest coming out at some point this year. I got the demo for this (WTF don’t more games come with demos? It’s such an easy game seller if the game is good!) and it definitely has that Diablo vibe which I like. However, like you and so many other reviewers have said, it’s tough if you don’t play local multiplayer very often (or ever), as these games are typically designed around that aspect. And as you mentioned, there are some parts of the game that seem criminally difficult without at least another friend to even out the aggro.

    Online play is nice and of course a welcome feature to me, but it brings me right back to Federation Force and Triforce Heroes. On paper it sounds great – IF you manage to find a competent group.

    Here’s a question for you – how hard is it to get a game together with friends online? Nintendo consoles don’t make it very easy, historically speaking, but that may make it easier to get the ball rolling.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your wonderful comments and kind words Geddy! 😀 I’m glad you brought up Federation Force and Triforce Heroes. I only played the latter, but I would not have had fun with that one without the very specific group of friends I played with. I can imagine Federation Force would be the same. Too bad I don’t know anyone with the game to play, so I skipped it haha.

      For this game, I did not play with friends online (only local) because none of my friends had this game. But it was really easy to get into an online multiplayer game with randoms. I just jumped in, played a little, then jumped out. I’d say if you set up a game with friends online, then you should have no problem starting a game together. But of course, you’ll need another way to chat since there’s no way to do that in-game. It’s the single save slot (which Frozenbyte is fixing) that could be an issue though. Perhaps you want to join your friend’s game in progress. Well, any file you had is now erased and if you want to make progress, you must play online continuing from wherever you left off with your friend, or start over. That said, when it gets fixed, it should hopefully be more accessible.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh wow, that sounds like a huge bug in the system with the single save slot! I like how Triforce Heroes did it – you just had a list of levels and cleared them. That was it. Federation Force, same way.

        It let you play solo, but also mix in 1 or 2 other players without affecting your “solo career”. Of course, both games suffered greatly in single player mode soo I guess call it a moot point – I need local friends who play videogames! :O

        Liked by 1 person

      2. It’s a big oversight, and I’m just glad that the developers recognize that it’s an issue that needs to be fixed. I think a level select would have also been great for this game, so hopefully they’ll consider adding that in too.

        Yeah, different files for different play styles just makes sense. Funny enough, I was able to complete Nine Parchments with a solo play through, and it wasn’t horrible… but not as balanced or fun as multiplayer for sure. It was tough!

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  5. I played a bit of Magica on PC and liked it so I may give this game a bash. Will have to wait for a patch though because the save file issue you mention would annoy me. Friendly Fire sounds like bad news if you have the misfortune of teaming up with a troll.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, if you liked Magicka, you’ll probably like Nine Parchments, as long as you don’t mind something that’s very similar. But yes, wait for the patch that fixes the save file issues. And friendly fire isn’t so fun, and not even just because of trolls, but also due to people legitimately trying to play well that just have…bad aim…

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Once again you’ve made me interested in a game that I wouldn’t even glance twice at after reading its description! I liked the title (fantasyesque!), but when I saw the description I was meh on it. It really reminds me of an updated version of Gauntlet, which I loved. The question is can you play with friends remotely? Because that would be hella cool to do with blogger buddies! ♥

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s awesome! It basically is Gauntlet, except everyone uses magic attacks as opposed to melee. I loved Gauntlet and Baldur’s Gate in the past, so I’m a pretty casual fan of the genre. You can indeed play online with friends, and in fact, that’s a huge part of the game. I wish I had online friends that had it when I played through the first time (I only played online random and local multiplayer when I reviewed it). I’m sure we’d have a blast if you ever picked it up! I’d 100% play with you if that were the case! Just as long as you’re fine with the save file issues I mentioned though.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Awesome! I bet you’ll get some great games for that list! Also, I love GCU. I don’t know what I’d do without it. I don’t buy games anywhere else anymore unless they’re not at Best Buy. Well, except digital games. I wish you could get those with the discount. Best Buy doesn’t let you get eShop cards for 20% off.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’ll shop at Target for them and have to admit I really don’t hit up BB as much as I could. I’ve been wanting to look into that $30 every two years membership card where you get a decent percentage off of games, and they have online shopping, too!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Oh! I thought you were talking about the Gamers Club Unlocked discount when you said GC. The deal is amazing. 20% off of most games is $12 and it works on amiibo, so I literally got my money’s worth within the first month. I wish I had done GCU sooner because I don’t know what I’d without it. For Target, we have a Redcard, so we save 5% on every purchase, which is great for all our groceries but not as good for games as Best Buy.

        Liked by 1 person

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