Game Title: Hocus Pocus
Game Company: Apogee Games/Moonlite Software
Year Released: 1994
I first played Hocus Pocus as a shareware game at some point in my youth. I remember it taking me a long time to get used to the game and was upset when I hit the level cap that the shareware version offered. I didn’t know I had a shareware copy at the time so the effect was devastating. Ah Shareware, dashing the hopes and dreams of PC gamers for most of the 80’s and 90’s. I purchased this game from GOG excited about this childhood game returning to my hands.
In Hocus Pocus you play as a young wizard, oddly named “Hocus Pocus”. You must free the 4 mystic paths of evil in order to join the wizard council. The head of the wizard council Terexin appears along the way to encourage/discourage players on their path to greatness.
Hocus Pocus is a pretty standard platform jump and shoot game. The gameplay is basic but, entertaining enough to keep players amused for a few hours. Players unlock sections of levels by using levers and use magic potions to restore health and gain special abilities. Each magical path contains 9 levels and each level contains a variety of magic crystals a player must obtain to move forward. The final level in each path contains a boss character for a player to defeat.
While most of the gameplay is relatively intuitive, there are several levels that have nasty “gotchas”. For example, if a player doesn’t know to reserve their jump potion power for the right time and place they become stranded without another way to move forward. Players can also expect difficulty with some clusters of enemies and hazards.
Hocus Pocus contains random glitches as well. Sometimes pieces of scenery don’t load when they should. In other cases players find themselves possessing random power ups or keys for no reason at all. The random bonuses can be nice but, a platform not loading in time is hazardous to say the least.
The best part of the game is the music. The MIDI compositions of Rob Wallace combined with the MIDI Timbres produced by The Fat Man AKA George Sanger make for an exciting and engaging soundtrack. Players might not even notice when the music loops because it works so well with the gameplay.
The final level of the final path is the most disappointing and easy level in the entire game. I expected a harder time with the final boss of the game given the difficulty and challenges of many other levels. It was if the developers just said, “Yeah, we’re tired of coding this, let’s just wrap it up.”
Hocus Pocus is a solid DOS platformer overall. The art design is amusing, the music is amazing, and the gameplay is about what players expect from a DOS game of the early 90’s. However, glitches, gotchas, and long, confusing level designs may frustrate people along their path to wizarding greatness.
Note: I wanted to give this game a 2.5/5 but the Tips/Story section is worth an additional half-point. HILARIOUS!