It’s a little hard to categorize Nine Parchments. In this game, you control one of several possible apprentice wizards who are aiming to get their Nine Parchments, because once they collect them and seal them in their spellbooks, they become fully fledged wizards. Due to some magical mishap, the parchments have been scattered throughout the realms and are now in the hands of evil-doers, so you have to go and get them.
That’s it. That’s the entire plot. Don’t expect a lengthy, in depth analysis of that here, because there really isn’t anything to analyze. There’s a few animated, voiced cut scenes (though not every character gets to speak, regardless of whether or not they’re actively being played).
The game does take place in the same universe as Trine, and the creators of that more popular series are behind this one. There’s a chance there may be some connective tissue, but really the plot’s only a loose excuse for the action here.
And again, that action makes it a bit hard to properly define Nine Parchments. It’s essentially a twin stick shooter at its core: the left stick moves your wizard apprentice of choice, the right alters where they fire. You hold down or tap a shoulder button to launch the spell of your choice; another shoulder button rotates through the spells (three guesses how many you can have at once). Another button jumps, another does a get out of the way teleport that recharges, and lastly you can hold down a button to melee if you’re insane, getting an achievement, or frustrated.
Your characters fire at various color coded enemies. The color matchups are mostly easy to understand, with almost every element having a parallel: ice hurts fire, fire hurts ice, life hurts dark, etc. It’s a matter of switching to the right spell for the right enemy and nailing them.
As you nail them, your character has the opportunity to level up. This increases your health marginally and also grants you access to various skill trees. At first you’ll just have the one, but eventually two more unlock (that’s where that whole achievement thing comes in). These new trees also provide you with different color schemes for the characters as well as new starting spell sets.
So we’ve got a twin-stick shooter with RPG elements? Or an action RPG with twin-stick shooting controls?
But wait! The astute reader may have noticed the emphasis on replaying. Each cycle grants new characters and access to new starting spells and variants and new achievements. Because the game is sort of a rogue-like in that regard. It’s not nearly as hard as those games tend to be, but each run has some alterations. You get different starting spells, and after each boss battle (again see above ) you can pick from up to three different selections. These are randomized each time, and it is well and truly random: being a certain type of wizard doesn’t guarantee you that spell type. That can become extremely frustrating in some runs, as you’re playing, say, the ice wizard with almost no ice spells and a need to do so much ice damage or have so many ice spells in order to unlock something.
It does feel like there’s a little more balancing that could be done there. I suppose it would be too much for a relatively low budget title like this to alter the randomizing, but just leaning a bit more toward certain spells for each character would be nice.
Speaking of balancing, 9P seems to strongly lean on a multiplayer aspect. I’ve consistently played it with my best friend, though one time my dad also sat in for a session (which really shows the simplistic controls and goal). You can play with cooperative couch co-op or online if someone else has the game. There’s the option to play with randoms or set up rooms with friends (I usually do the latter). I have tried to briefly play the game by myself, and it just doesn’t quite work. It’s a little like trying to solo Mario Party: some games are just built for multiplayer.
Which means that the multiplayer has to work. I’d argue it more or less does here. The game feels somewhat balanced for it: enemy types seem to lean toward letting at least one player hit them (ideally with a weakness), and if you’ve got three or more players, you should be able to hit weaknesses nearly every time. If you go down in battle, you sort of hover there with a ring around your character that slowly fills. That ring can be sped up if another player stands in it, encourage a sort of risk/reward strategy to reviving your partners.
The game does feel balanced toward multiplayer, and it feels mostly balanced on the whole. There are a few moments where wonky physics can get in the way. I’ll also say that if you’re playing with just two players, sometimes the setup can completely throw off your game. During my last run, we encountered a late level encounter we weren’t sure we could get through. I was playing the ice wizard, and every enemy was at least resistant if not immune to ice damage. My friend was playing a more balanced wizard, but most of those spells used fire or lightning, which these things were also immune to. We did somehow make it through, but it felt harder than it needed to.
The controls also occasionally feel just a bit loose and floaty. This really comes through in jumps and teleports, which are always a bit awkward. Despite having played this game several times, my friend and I often still miss jumps in areas where we know jumping is required, or teleport off edges, etc.
Maps are fairly pretty on the whole, though sometimes the detail gets in the way of seeing where you’re going. Mix that with those semi-floaty controls and accidental deaths do happen more frequently than they should. It also seems a bit arbitrary when some bits of scenery are stable and can be traversed while others will lead to death, particularly puddles of water.
There’s also a fun little narrator who likes to chime in, which adds some charm. Characters will also talk to one another, which can also be enjoyable: we’ve encountered new conversations even ten or so playthroughs in just because of different combinations.
That’s the thing here: 9P goes a long way based on charm. It’s got this sort of charming fairy tale vibe with its rendered graphics, quirky characters, and almost nonsensical plot. A lot of encounters feel cheeky, like the game’s playing with you a little. How much you like that charm will affect how much you like the game.
I will say that this is one of the most played games on my Switch right now, right up there with some of those lengthy RPG titles I’ve played over and over. Given that you can usually complete a story run in somewhere around 3-4 hours, that means I’ve dumped a lot of runs into this game.
It’s also got this tendency to be on sale for $5 in the eshop almost constantly. I’d say it’s definitely worth the price if you’re interested in a multiplayer game or this review makes it sound like it could be fun. I don’t know if I’d encourage someone to shell out for the full price, but, again, it’s almost always on sale (it is at the time of this review), so….
8 the charm goes a long way, as does a lot of fun memories for me, but I’d say it’s a more objective 6 or so: loose controls and randomized difficulty can lead to some frustration, but it’s still more likely to lead to some fun, multi-player action (safe for all ages too!)