Magi Trials is the tenth game from Dharker Studio, this time, taking fans to a whole new and interesting setting, with magic and dangerous spells! It’s refreshing to say the least, and surprisingly, an unexpected adventure.
We play as Shaun, a young man who’s too ambitious for his own good, but that’s the life for those who want to enter the school of magic, particularly, the most prestigious school in the entire kingdom. Shaun was born in a small town, and he learnt magic more out of curiosity rather than prestige, so he realises he still has a long road ahead of him to be accepted in the school’s trials.
Out of options and running out of time, Shaun decides to take an even shorter route and sneaks into the school’s library, searching for a powerful spell to increase his strength, and magic power. He finds the spell all right, but after he performed it, something goes terribly wrong, turning him into a woman, a pretty hot one as well. This is not what he had in his mind, but still, he endures it and decides to take the trials and face his life dream of becoming the strongest sorcerer.
His new gender is the least of the problems he’ll face ahead. A plot among the high roles of the school is taking motion, and Shaun is caught right in the middle of it. As if that’s not enough, hidden dangers are awaiting his curiosity to go out of boundaries, and knowing Shaun, it’s just a matter of time.
Magi Trials is the second “Gender Bender” game Dharker Studio has released. Early on I thought this was some spiritual spin-off from Highschool Romance, but alas, it’s a completely new, and different game, but sharing some close similarities. This time, our protagonist changes completely, thanks to magic, and he’s now known as Sophie. it’s not just cloths, it’s a complete physical change. Now, now, I know what many of you are thinking, but this time (such as Highschool Romance), we don’t have an adult patch, therefore there’s no such thing as nudity, or sexual content. Although some extreme tags may come out like Futanari, or Trap, and although that would be wrong, it’s actually a very soft-core game regardless. Dialogues are still sexy and provocative, but when comes to visuals, there’s no adult themes.
Dharker Studio delivers yet, another pleasant Visual Novel, with a solid and unconventional story, but quickly becoming an addictive one, with a well written plot, relatively well developed characters and multiple endings to enjoy. This time, players don’t need to be curious about the next sexy scene, instead, the narrative delivers a story to follow on, and that’ the main motivation. The novel's plot is simple, and wasn’t pushed too hard, but yet, fulfills the need to generate enough information about the world-history, and the surroundings, and that makes a huge difference! Some words gained a new meaning; Mages refer to male wizards, and Magi is now the term of female practitioners of magic. Small details like these always help shape a much more competent storyline.
The narrative is well directed, and I personally felt it wasn’t as spicy as other previous titles, even though there is a mix of flirting and provocative dialogues, they are mostly for the giggles, and rarely engage in a serious sexual scene. There’s a huge amount of humour as its been common among Dharker Studio games, with dialogues playing smartly along characters' relationships. There is also an emotional side to this story, especially for the bad endings, that can go easily unexpected.
Visually, Magi Trials adopted the already seen art style in Highschool Romance, but this time adding much more detail, and longer traces to character renders, making them look more distinct. Renders are present in a western design approach, with a cartoonish look, but still maintaining the usual sexy traces we’re all used to. Girl renders have some expressions, not a huge variety, but enough to enjoy the changes of mood. As always, they are hand-drawn, and this time we also have an increase in resolution, meaning those playing at 1920x1080 will have a perfect image quality, with no upscale noticeable. Cutscenes, or in this case, special scenes, are amazingly well done, with hand drawn characters portrayed perfectly well the renders they represent, adding a deeper meaning to the storyline.
Since we have a magic based game, it’s good to mention the overall feeling of the title, that is well represented in character clothes, but also in the backgrounds. While magic robes and school uniforms make up for the whole ambience, it’s important to have adequate locations to go with. Backgrounds do a trusty representation of the glimpse of the world we get to enjoy through this adventure. Inside the school, large stairways cover the rocky building, and the large corridors are almost labyrinths holding classrooms. Not to mention the dining hall, with large tables and the essence of magic everywhere… Wait, where have I seen this before? Yes, in Harry Potter movies. Take note, this is not a critique, as Magi Trials has its own feeling, mixing the classic magic outlook in a post-modern world. There are no smartphones, but there’s a feeling of the modern age in the city. A classy mix, but inside the school, I couldn’t stop but feeling overrun by the Harry Potter vibe, in which is not a bad thing, but totally unrelated at the same time. With the architecture out of the way, I have to refer to the great job by the artists in maintaining a solid atmosphere throughout the game, across different scenarios.
As a choice-based Visual Novel, players decide their fate, and the fate of their romance as well. With two characters to romance with, a school teacher with an intense plot twist, and a fellow student with an endeavours past, the option is totally up for players, but almost every choice matters. Despite only having two romantic ways with almost 2 hours of gameplay each, (and an extra as a surprise), there is a total of eight different possible endings for this adventure.
Deluxe Edition available on Steam, adds a few interesting extras, which are available as a DLC as well. Six different Dakimakuras with three different characters portrayed, each with a resolution of 2000x4800. 25 Wallpapers, all hand drawn, with 1920x1080 as resolution. 23 Avatars, to use on Steam or any other platform you may want to with 500x500 as the resolution and there are avatars with all in-game characters, so that’s a plus. The Soundtrack is also part of the Deluxe Edition, and once again we have Sam L Jones as a sole composer for the game. Music ranges from smooth neo-classic with ambient influences. 12 tracks at MP3 320kpbs, and although it’s not as upbeat and melodic as we’re used to, it fits the game perfectly, and adds a lot to the atmosphere.
Magi Trials is definitely a nice surprise, with an emotional side that many may underestimate. In any case, it’s another solid release by Dharker Studio, with nice characters, and a well directed narrative, charming and captivating. Recommended for anyone who appreciates a good storyline with fantasy and some funny moments.