What is it and who made it? Cunning Force Games and Black Shell Media put a circular twist on the gameplay formula made famous by Arkanoid and Breakout in this fantasy themed brick breaker.
What platforms is it on and how much does it cost? In Early Access for just over a full year, Magical Brickout has finally made its full Steam release this week for $7.99.
How much did we play? Completed the tutorial and 21 main story levels in an hour and fifteen minutes.
Any technical concerns, hardware requirements, or other details you should know about? The Early Access phase appears to have been put to good use, as I have not yet encountered any bugs or gameplay imbalances. I haven’t tried playing with a gamepad yet, but the keyboard controls work well, as does the optional input method for mouse rotation. The full launch has also brought with it additional features like achievements, trading cards, leaderboards, story progression, etc.
Why should you play it?
• Circle of Pain: You’ve played a brick breaker in some form before, right? You know, those games where you slide a paddle back and forth horizontally across the bottom of the screen to ping a ball up at a wall of breakable bricks? Well Magical Brickout is one of those types of games, except here the brick-smashing ball starts at the center of a circular play space littered with surrounding bricks that are laid out in picturesque patterns similar to Peggle‘s peg-filled levels. Instead of sliding a paddle to deflect the ball, the play space itself is rotated clockwise or counterclockwise to move the bricks into the path of the in-constant-motion orb. The outer circumference of the play area has no barrier except for small, indestructible brick walls that fulfill the same function as paddles. The goal is to keep the ball from deflecting beyond the boundaries of the screen while breaking all of the bricks within a limited number of balls. However, the rotation mechanic calls for a different kind of spatial awareness and hand-eye coordination that brings a new level of challenge compared to the traditional brick breaker. The early levels are fairly easy, but it doesn’t take long for the difficulty to amp up and really begin to challenge your reflexes and ability to predict the ball trajectory as it pings about. This isn’t just some casual cupcake of a game, folks. Expect to burn through a lot of balls.
• Fairy-Busting 101: Magical Brickout has different types of bricks. The main bricks that need to be destroyed to clear each level are those that glow with a magical blue aura. These bricks are actually prisons that an evil wizard has used to capture the brother and sister fairies you need to rescue by busting them open. Grey bricks are just ordinary bricks–they aren’t mandatory, but breaking them adds to your overall score. Red and yellow bricks should be avoided as best as possible, as they are traps that inflict penalties such as shrinking the ball size, increasing the ball’s rate of speed, cutting the score multiplier in half, or obscuring your vision with a heat wave screen filter effect. Green bricks, on the other hand, provide beneficial powerups, like an increase to the points multiplier, slowed time, reset ball speed, multiball, or a double-sized superball. As a fairy, you’re also given two vials to fill with magical energy for each broken brick. One vial fills up an extra ball power, with one additional life added to your pool for every 15 bricks destroyed. The other vial represents the score multiplier, which increases for each consecutive brick that is cleared, thereby increasing the point value for subsequent bricks. The catch here is that progress in both vials immediately resets if a ball is lost, so if you’re only breaking a few bricks at a time, not giving enough chance for the vials to fill up, you’re not going to score many points, and you’re less likely to clear the stage due to not earning enough extra balls to survive on.
• Welcome to Wondaria: The storyline, presented as simple comic panel cutscenes as well as text boxes with character portraits, is largely a throwaway, but the game at least does a good job of creating a whimsical tone through liberal use of puns and references to fantasy and pop culture brands like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Frozen, and The Avengers. The references and gags carry through to the background art, while the bricks are laid out in formations using the background scenes as templates. There are even some clever boss battle stages. This helps to create a sense of progressing through an ongoing narrative, simple though it may be. The world of Wondaria is just a cute and colorful world to smash some bricks in.
Parting Thoughts: Magical Brickout puts a fun and challenging new spin (literally!) on the brick-breaker formula. While this isn’t the first game to bring the genre into a circular, rotatable arena, the more elaborate brick patterns that synch up with the background art, as well as the different powerups and hazards, definitely give this game that little extra jolt of addictive magic. Additional value is provided through a gold star reward system, in which three stars can be earned for each stage, including one for beating a completion time limit, one for eclipsing a certain total point value, and one for finishing with more than a specified number of remaining balls. A goblin minion also randomly portals somewhere into the play space during each level, and if you can strike the little guy before he warps out, you earn a bonus badge during the score recap page at the end. A high score leaderboard is included as well, though it’s accessible only from within the Steam client and not directly inside the game (unless I missed something). Plus, as far as I can tell, there aren’t leaderboards for individual level scores, just a total game high score. Perhaps the leaderboard system could be expanded a bit more in a future update.
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Disclosure: A Steam code for Magical Brickout was provided to VGBlogger.com by the game’s publisher.