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Which Console Did You Buy/Receive Over The Holidays?

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Game Profile
Secret Level
GENRE: Strategy
PLAYERS:   1-2
November 18, 2003
 Written by Alex Fitzgerald  on January 22, 2004

Full Review: ?because life can't be about the other big M all the time.

Converting any type of license into a video game is always a tough that many developers usually do not rise to (see your local game store's bargain bin for more information). Converting something extremely deep in nature -- and with a large dedicated user base -- is an even more daunting proposition. Such is the case with the Magic series, a card game that put one-time small company Wizards of the Coast on the map, and captured geeks hearts all over the nation. Developer Secret Level has attempted to take all that is cool about the card game and jam it into their title Magic the Gathering: Battlegrounds, and while a lot of things in the game work, a lot also doesn't.

The interface utilized by the game is like that of a tennis court. You are on one side, your opponent is on the other, and in the middle of you there is a white line. The main object of Battlegrounds is for you to pick magical shards and crystals dropped by fallen monsters (under your command and your opponents) and use them to create a spell or send a creature into battle under your command.

The system is very deep in this regard, as winning depends quite a bit on how you use the magic you gather. You can send out a lot of smaller troops, or you can save your magic and produce a huge monster or an even grander spell. Beyond how much it costs to produce your offensive in the game, you also have a bunch of other things to think about: such as the mana levels of your digital troops, where to hatch your monsters on the battlefield, etc.

Despite how deep the game is for being a console game it does feel as if Secret Level was holding something back. The world of Magic: The Gathering is monstrous far beyond the confines of this game, and as such the game pales in comparison when it's put next to the card game.

Still, if Battlegrounds provides one great service it's this: online play. Magic players no longer have to leave their house to go to tournaments, nor do they have to play the same neighbor they've been playing everyday for the past month. Instead, they can just hop online and in a few minutes set up a game with any of the players online. Sure, Battlegrounds is a very stripped down version of Magic, but it is a somewhat decent representation, and I'm sure many Magic players would be willing to deal with the game's shortcomings in order to play against other Magic gamers from all over the country.

The graphics and audio in the game are pretty sparse. The interface isn't much to look at, and neither are the monsters (which seems odd considering the game has nothing more to animate). The sound that emits from your speakers via the game will be nothing more than the aural effects of beats roaring and eggs hatching, which sound authentic, but aren't enough to appease your ear drums.

Bottom Line
Battlegrounds isn't too bad of a title to have in your library if you're a fan of strategy games, or the actual card game. Many fans will likely purchase the game for its online modes alone. For anyone else though who's not into Magic or strategy, a rental would be recommended before a purchase.

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