Review: Magic Ball

MagicBall.jpg

TikGames and Creat Studios have burst onto the PSN scene in a big way. The two companies announced a partnership late last year to begin work on downloadable PS3 titles, and only a month into 2009 this budding new partnership has already produced three games: Mahjong Tales: Ancient Wisdom, Magic Ball and Cuboid. I haven’t played Mahjong Tales so unfortunately I can’t tell you how that one turned out, but I have been playing the other two for the past couple weeks and today I’ll be sharing my thoughts on both, starting right now with Magic Ball.

Have you ever played brick-breaking arcade games like Arkanoid and Breakout? You know, you move a paddle right and left along the bottom of the screen bouncing a ball back and forth into patterns of bricks floating above? It’s one of the oldest genres in gaming, so surely you’ve experienced it in some form in your gaming lifetime. Well, Magic Ball takes this time tested genre and finally gives it a fresh coat of paint.

Magic Ball plays no differently than its brick-breaking predecessors. You’re still sliding a paddle back and forth, and you’re still bouncing balls to and fro trying to clear the obstructions each stage puts in front of you. But the difference with Magic Ball is that instead of breaking through boring old bricks, you’re acting as a wrecking crew out to destroy fully-3D scenes. As your ball ricochets around each stage, you aren’t just watching blocks dully disappear from the playing field. Oh no, you get to demolish entire set pieces and watch as the polygonal chunks break off piece by piece.

The game’s 48 stages are split between two different environment themes (a mysterious third environment can be seen in the menu as well, but apparently it’ll be unlocked as future DLC) – Plundering Pirates and Naughty Knights – each of which is presented in a delightfully whimsical style bursting with color and rich with detail. You get to destroy pirate ships, giant octopi, tropical islands, treasure chests, monkeys, skeletons medieval castles, knights, dragons, damsels in distress and so much more, all of which break apart realistically through the use of Havok physics.

Magic Ball does a little more than just put a 3D coat of paint on an old genre too. Loads of power-ups float down as you destroy each level, adding more variety, challenge and destructive satisfaction to the basic gameplay. You can pick up items to increase the size of your paddle and ball, turn your ball into an explosive grenade or spiked wrecking ball that plows through everything in its path instead of bouncing off on contact, or slow down ball movement so it’s easier to keep in play. You can obtain weapon attachments temporarily turning your paddle into a battleship armed with lasers, cannons, machine guns or rocket launchers. You can even trigger natural disasters like earthquakes, tornadoes and meteor showers.

It’s not all fun and games though. You also have to watch out for and steer clear of power-downs that do things like shrink your ball or paddle size, speed up ball movement, and make your ball swerve about in unpredictable ways. Then there’s the dreaded instant-kill skull…don’t think I need to explain what that one does!

Magic Ball is a fun, well-rounded action/arcade game containing pretty much everything a modern PSN title should have. It’s addictive and replayable as a solo experience, has fan-demanded features like trophy support, voice chat and leaderboards, and even offers competitive and cooperative two-player action. Sadly, the game is a bit of a mess online right now thanks to frequent failed matchmaking connections and laggy gameplay when you do manage to actually get a match to connect, but the offline works fine and is a hoot if you have a second player around to battle with. All in all, Magic Ball is an inspired reinvention of an old genre, and is well worth its $9.99 download price.

BuyIt.jpg

Pros:
+ Perfectly reinvents an old genre
+ Gameplay is simple, accessible and highly addictive
+ Great graphics
+ Satisfying use of physics
+ Fun mix of power-ups

Cons:
– Broken online play
– Locked third environment is a shameless DLC tease

Game Info:
Platform: PS3 via PSN Download
Publisher: TikGames/Creat Studios
Developer: TikGames/Creat Studios
Release Date: 1/15/09
Genre: Action/Arcade
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1-2

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!