Oh, yeah, we’ve got quite the tale
to explore here on LGR today.
It’s a story about three sisters who were witches,
and they come back to life hundreds of years later
in the city of Salem, Massachusetts,
where Bette Midler and–
Oh, wait, what?
Oh, so it’s not that?
Oh, okay. Well, uh,
the person off-camera there
that does not exist
informs me that this is the
wrong thing I’m describing here.
We’re not taking a look at “Hocus Pocus.”
No. We’re taking a look at…
developed by Moonlight Software,
in conjunction with Apogee Software,
and published by Apogee
in 1994 for DOS PCs.
This is one of the Shareware
games designed by Mike Voss
who before this was
known for Clyde’s Adventure.
Hocus Pocus is one of the few Apogee titles
I didn’t get to try until only
a handful of years ago,
but I played the crap out of Clyde as a kid,
so when I did get around to this,
it felt mighty familiar.
That’s a review for another day, though,
because this is Hocus Pocus,
Walla Walla, Washington.
This is also the FormGen
retail version of the game,
which came with the full version
in a box sold in stores
so you didn’t have to order
it directly from Apogee.
Inside the box, you get some gaming magic
on a 3½-inch high-density floppy disk,
some cardboard that feels exactly like cardboard,
and a lovely color manual.
FormGen’s manuals were always great,
and I still love thumbing through
these things just to reminisce,
even if it’s a game I have
zero nostalgic connection to.
Pocus Hocus begins with a plea
that you don’t copy that floppy,
and a splash screen showing an evil monk
doing the first part of the YMCA.
Next you’re given the main menu,
complete with a star field
screensaver in the background
and a selection of options
that spell “BROIL CHQ.”
Just thought you should know.
If you feel like reading the game’s fiction,
written by none other that Tom Hall,
then you can do that,
and it’s quite the silly story indeed.
You play a mage wannabe named Hocus Pocus
who wants to be a magician of the land of Lattice,
so he can join the Council of Wizards
and get good tables at restaurants.
Oh, yeah, and there’s some token true love
that you can’t marry until you do
because… I dunno. Why not?
Of course, there’s some dude
in charge that thinks you suck
and can never become a council member
and forces you to complete
a series of useless tasks
in order to prove your worthiness.
Yeah, the gist of the story is
about as phoned-in as it gets,
but the writing itself is delightfully absurd
and full of smirk-inducing jokes, so it’s cool.
But, yeah, you’ve got four
episodes to play through
and three difficulties to choose from.
Easy is really easy,
Moderate is really moderate,
and Hard is really hard.
So props to the designers
for their excellence in difficulty distinction.
Hocus-Cadabra begins with you
standing outside of a castle,
while a pop-up throws words at you
that involve the goal of the game.
Basically, a specific number of
vaguely important crystal balls
exist in the most inopportune
locations on each level.
It’s up to you to find them
Reason being that wizard douche
and he’ll frequently show his
impressively bearded face
just to taunt you and
tell you how lame you are,
but just ignore him and start walking
because an adventure awaits!
And it may not be Clyde’s Adventure,
but it sure does feel similar in certain ways.
For one, it’s the same type
of tile-based side-scrolling,
with walking speed controls
and very particular physics
that makes the game feel purposely limited.
And you’re constantly solving puzzles
that involve switches and disappearing walls
as well as collecting gems and other valuables,
so the Clyde similarities are clear.
However, the big difference here
is that you also have combat,
and enemies that often spawn
in massive quantities at once.
And I’ve got to say, this really
adds a lot to the experience,
both good and bad.
Good because it gives you something to do
in between navigating
and because otherwise
the game would be too easy.
Bad because it gets old,
hitting the fire button so dang much.
Thankfully, you can pick up lightning bolts
in order to shoot more shots at a time,
but you’re still pressing the
button once for every shot.
And there are rapid-fire power-ups
that enable some seriously
especially when you jump while shooting
or aim directly up to just
annihilate things from the sky.
But it still gets old
because there’s just so much of it,
and the enemies rarely do
anything interesting enough
to force you to change up the strategy of
smash the Alt key.
But does it bother me *that* much, though?
Nah, not really. It’s just a
thing to complain about
because I had indigestion
and I was in a grumpy
mood when I played this.
I’d just prefer if there was
some variety to it, that’s all.
Oh, I almost forgot. There is.
But it’s so uncommon and underwelming
that it’s barely worth mentioning.
You occasionally get fireballs that fly through
and disintegrate entire groups
of enemies without stopping,
but you only get three
from each rare pickup,
and there are dozens and dozens
of enemy spawn points per level.
But anyway, once you surrender to the fact
that your keyboard is going to turn you
in for abuse after playing this game,
Abraca-Pocus really is a
satisfying little platformer.
Mainly due to the puzzle-solving elements,
very much like Clyde,
but a little bit less sadistic.
I love me some tasty logic puzzles
and the ones here,
while nothing earth-shattering,
have a distinct punctual flavor about them.
And what I mean is they never
truly outstay their welcome.
Just when one starts to get irritating,
you’ll probably just figure it out,
and then maybe you’ll stumble
into a little secret puzzle
that lets you enjoy the
treasures of a secret room,
and that always tickles
the brain’s pleasure spots.
This is one of those games that
with each level it makes you think,
“Oh, no! Look at all those
rooms I can’t get to!
What the nutsack?”
And then a few minutes later, you’re like,
“Yeah, that wasn’t too bad.
I guess I don’t fail as a
human being after all.”
In another nice touch,
every two levels
the scenery, music and
monsters all change.
Sometimes they do recycle
assets from previous levels,
but the combination is always different,
which really helps distract you from the
repetitious button-thrashing combat.
Throw in some boss battles
and the occasional level
composed almost entirely
of teleportation navigation,
and Hocus Pocus is a game
that changes up enough elements
throughout its episodes
to keep things interesting
without being *too* interesting,
if that makes sense.
There’s really nothing that
strikes me as particularly unique
or groundbreaking about it.
and once it’s over, you’re probably not
going to be thinking about it too much.
But then again, I don’t think it cares,
and is instead just happy being a competent
It’s an iterative game
that sticks with the
formula already established,
but it’s also got ugly
monsters to shoot,
shinier graphics, some catchy music,
and puzzles that satiate without
wearing you down too much.
It’s also still available for sale
from 3D Realms and on GOG.com,
so if you’re curious about it, then go ahead.
Check it out from the comfort
of your internet connection.
I can’t guarantee it’ll smother you
in awesome sauce or anything,
but I find it incredibly charming.
And if the phrase didn’t make me gag,
I’d say it’s even a bit magical.
But no, that’s lame.
Instead, I’ll just say it’s pretty friggin’ fun,
and leave it at that.
And if you enjoyed this review,
and would like to hear me talk some more,
well, you’re in the right place.
I talk in pretty much all of my videos
and I’ve covered a ton of other games.
Lots more from Apogee
and there’s a bunch more on the way.
You can also follow and interact
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for that kind of stuff,
if you are interested in the social thing.
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stuff that it allows me to do.
And as always, thank you very much for watching.