Ah breaking bricks. A national pastime you can experience at bars everywhere, and in the 70s, every arcade you could find. Breakout started an unstoppable trend. What was it about an essentially modified version of pong that enticed so many people? I remember the first time I played Arkanoid when I was 4 years old; it was probably the first “frantic” title I ever played. So is Magic Ball different than all the rest?
Well, have you ever gunned down pirates with a machine gun before in a brick breaking game?!
Never played a brick breaker before? Well the concept is simple: it’s like playing virtual ping pong with yourself, but the targets are at the top of the screen. Guide your paddle so it bounces your “ball” into your targets, and if the ball goes past your paddle on the way back down, you lose a life. Simple right? That’s where Magic Ball’s gameplay shines; it’s so easy anyone could pick it up and play.
In a world of dull and unoriginal titles, games like this hardly ever look so vibrant and full of character. Magic Ball’s levels are full of lush forests, beautiful blue castles, bright flowers, and other meticulously detailed landscapes. It also helps that Magic Ball’s Havok physics engine is there to realistic replicate falling boxes and structures. Your eyes will light up when you get the “wind gust” powerup for the first time and blow over a giant “deck of cards” castle. It’s a small complaint, but I wish that the backdrops/objects would show a translucent effect when your ball was behind them so you knew where it was, but it never really hinders the gameplay. The levels are broken up into a “pirate theme”, and a “castle theme”, and Magic Ball gives you 50 of these levels for your $10 purchase. If you ran straight through these levels in one sitting, it would probably take you around 2 and a half hours.
Powerups play a huge part in your success, and the ones found in the game range from incredibly exciting to unnecessary. Cannons, Magnet paddles, and laser cannons were never so much fun. You’ll literally get a powerup every 10 seconds or so, which helps keep gameplay exciting. Some are completely overpowered (the iron ball, that just plows through everything), and some do virtually nothing (the bomb), but there are so many of them you’ll hardly notice the unfun ones. You’ll get plenty of projectile powerups like machine-guns, and they’re the most fun to play around with because you have the most control over them. One problem I found with powerup placement is that sometimes you’ll get a triple iron ball and clear a stage in 30 seconds, and sometimes you’ll get sub-par powerups and spend a few minutes trying to hit that last barge. Be weary! There are also negative pickups like the “crazy ball”, that makes your ball spin uncontrollably, or the instant death pickup.
I wish that there were more themes than just “pirates” and “knights”, but there is a lot of diversity in each individual level. One level you encounter an island of giant monkies, another, a giant squid, and another, a large chess board full of living pieces. If there was a “space them” after the pirates world and before the medieval world, it would have been a great addition, and spiced up the gameplay a bit more. Don’t fret though, as Creat Studios has mentioned the possibility of DLC.
While it has a Multiplayer mode, I felt that it was a bit of a let down. In both game-types (coop and versus), you are restricted to one half of the screen each. In coop, it feels like you’re just playing the same single player game, but now you can’t go to the other side. In versus, the power up system is very broken, because you could potentially give something like an “iron ball” to your opponent, who could just use it for his own gains before you even get to use it. Mutliplayer definately could have benefited from placing one of the paddles below the other one, or a split screen mode, so at least you feel actively involved in the entire level, not just part of it. Online play is available for both of these modes and compliments an otherwise single player experience quite nicely.
After having played almost every brick iteration known to man, I can safely say that Creat Studios/TikGames’ Magic Ball takes a lot of elements found in puzzle classics like Zuma or Luxor, and blends them into one successful package. However, Magic Ball is not a game for everyone. There are a ton of players out there who loathe brick breakers, and I’m telling you now, at it’s core, it’s still a brick breaker that could have used a few extra options; but it sure is fun.
Some of the sharpest visuals on the PSN. The vibrant colors are rendered perfectly, and there are a ton of different character and structure models to break apart.
It’s a brick breaking game, so you can’t really go wrong in terms of controls. Magic Ball boasts some of the most fun power-ups in a video game, but it could have used more modes to diversify the gameplay.
Do you like the soundtrack to Toy Story? If not, you’ll be sitting through similar sounding music for a few hours when attempting to beat the game. The sound effects are average, except for the hilarious screams you get sometimes when bumping into pirates.
There’s only one single player mode (campaign) and two themes (pirates and knights). The two multiplayer modes feel almost the same, and could have used tweaking.
Magic Ball is a really great way to kill time. It could have greatly benefited from an expanded multiplayer mode, and an extra level theme, but it’s solid fun.