Hocus Pocus

In 1994, Moonlite Software developed, and Apogee published, the side-scrolling shareware title Hocus Pocus (which has no relation to the Disney movie of the same name), with its one-episode demo providing an enjoyable experience.

Protagonist Hocus can fire lightning bolts left, right, and upward to defeat enemies, which spawn at fixed points throughout each level. Initially, he can fire only one bolt at a time, although he can gather lightning bolt icons that allow him to subsequently fire one more bolt to defeat enemies. There are also white potions that allow him to fire lightning without stopping for a few seconds, useful in defeating long lines of enemies. Hocus, furthermore, has a health percentage that tops out at one hundred percent, with green potions slightly recovering his HP. It’s slightly annoying that when Hocus begins new levels, his lightning bolt-firing capabilities drop back to one bolt at a time, but otherwise, the gameplay serves the title well.

The controls of Hocus Pocus are generally easy to get a handle of, with decent platforming, and while there aren’t any in-game maps, it isn’t terribly easy to get lost in levels, with the player needing to obtain a certain number of crystal orbs to progress to the next level. Puzzles consist mostly of adjustable switches that don’t detract from the game, along with occasional jumping and platforming through each level. Although the player can save their game at any time, saving doesn’t preserve progress within levels, the player needing to start the current level from scratch if they quit and resume the game. Otherwise, interaction helps the game far more than hurts.

The narrative of Hocus Pocus consists mostly of extensive backstory the player can view before starting a new game, not to mention the story viewed upon beating an episode and the dialogues from Terexin’s holograms that provide in-game hints. It’s not a mind-blowing plot, although it is fairly decent for a game of the time.

The music and sound effects are generally decent, with the former for each level changing after a few, although Hocus’s high-pitched yahoos might annoy some.

The visuals are nice as well, with no palette-swapped enemies, gorgeous colors, and generally good level design, although the levels themselves consist mostly of square blocks that don’t look terribly realistic.

Finally, the demo is less than an hour long, with multiple difficulties that affect how much damage Hocus takes adding decent replay value.

All in all, the demo of Hocus Pocus provides a decent sidescrolling platforming experience, with just about all its aspects, such as its gameplay, control, sound, and visuals, being well above average for a game in its time, and the story, while generally absent during the gameplay of the demo episode, isn’t bad, either. While nearly a score has elapsed since its release, the game has aged considerably well.

The Good:
+Solid sidescrolling gameplay and control.
+Nice sound.
+Great graphics.
+Multiple difficulties provide replay value.

The Bad:
-Saving doesn’t preserve progress within individual missions.
-No story in between levels.

The Bottom Line:
A fun demo.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: MS-DOS
Game Mechanics: 9/10
Controls: 8/10
Story: 7/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Graphics: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Adjustable
Playing Time: Less than one hour

Overall: 8.5/10

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