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PSN Review – Magic Ball

January 21, 2009 Written by Paulmichael Contreras

PSN

Rip this place apart!

Rip this place apart!

Another week, another PSN update goes by. This time, you saw the downloadable game by the name of “Magic Ball” for $10 and gave it a pass. Was that such a wise decision? Read this review to find out!

No ground makes buildings collapse!

No ground makes buildings collapse!

It seems the longer the PS Store is around, the more games it receives. Another reputable digital distribution service (you know the one!) has been around for a significantly longer amount of time, and as such some of its products can be classified as, shall we say, shovelware? It seems to be the way with all of these services. And it makes sense too – games are far cheaper to produce for this medium and usually turn a profit in a short amount of time. Does Magic Ball fit this bill? Is the PS Store soon to see title after title with little to no substance? If this game is any indication, the answer is most definitely a loud NO.

Let’s talk gameplay. What you get here is fairly simple – your goal is to clear a level of everything by bouncing a ball around the playfield and hit various objects. Yes, like Arkanoid or other such classic arcade games. That’s what originally drew me to this little title. I love some good brick-busting challenges; there’s few things better to play than a good round of Revenge of Doh. Now, having said all that, it’s obvious that this game probably won’t appeal to those who aren’t fans of this genre, as the core gameplay remains the same. Though really, why mess with a proven formula? But it gets better. First of all, there are infinite continues if you choose to do so. Fail a level by running out of lives, and you are given the option to retry that level as if nothing had happened. You restart it with the same amount of lives and points as you had before.

This can be both a blessing and a curse, especially if you only had one life going into a difficult level. It is an option, so those looking to challenge themselves by making it through the entire game on one set of lives can still set out to do so. Next, for one of my favorite features. You know when you’re almost done with the level but can’t seem to hit those last few blocks? Next thing you know the damn thing is taking ten minutes when you were basically done in two. This game helps you out by seeing that you’re not hitting anything and in turn hits remaining objects (which are “blocks” in normal Arkanoid clones) with lightning strikes. It doesn’t seem to do this all the time, however, and seems to be reliant on what powerups you came across recently. At any rate, once you get down to just a handful of blocks left, the End Level powerup comes down and you’re free to go on to the next level without clearing those last few blocks.

Everything keeps falling after this.

Everything keeps falling after this.

Now for the interesting part. It seems the PlayStation 3 is always touting how fast it is, and this game puts the system to good use in utilizing a full physics system for everything on the playfield. Each level has “blocks” in three directions – back, forward, and on top. There are layers to these levels, and when you destroy a block anything resting on top of that block falls to the ground according to gravity and other physics-related properties. This can make for some cool moments within the game, and can even play to part of your strategy in clearing the level quickly, or to build up combos.

For example, if I am given a powerup such as a cannon, all I do is press X and aim at say a stone tower in the level. The cannonball will hit the lowest block that it first comes to, so if I aim accurately I hit the base of the tower. After a few moments the tower begins to tobble, and then it all comes crashing to the ground just as you’d expect. If I timed it right, the ball could be stuck in the top of the playfield, destroying many blocks in one pass as I continue to go about the level firing my cannon and earning multiple points in the process. It’s very rewarding and has a natural look about it. Well, as natural as pirates, knights, dragons and giant sharks trapped in playfields can look, anyway.

The graphics are in full HD (up to and including 1080p), and for the most part are buttery*. The framerate does occasionally stutter when there are a ton of things happening onscreen, but it is a rare occurrence that does not hinder gameplay in any way. Some of the visuals are a bit too kid-friendly looking (I’m looking at you, rainbow in the sky of the entire first episode!), and the audio can follow the same suit sometimes, but overall neither aspects of this title disappoint.

Surprisingly, your $10 will get you a slew of multiplayer options. You can do both co-op and competitive 2 player games, and both are available in either local or online configuration. This can result in hectic onscreen action, to be sure, but is a nice surprise in what is typically a single-player affair. Honestly, I think without this feature I may have rated this game a bit lower, but with this addition it’s truly a great bargain title.

Which brings me to the negative section of the review. The various powerups can be a pain to aim properly, as you have to be very precise when trying to hit something small. These gun powerups are not time-restricted, but rather ammo-limited, so when every shot counts being off by a mere couple of pixels can sting a bit. Also, there is no custom music option at the moment. The developer has stated that such a feature will arrive in their planned add-on, but if we’re going to have to pay for this feature I’d have to say…Ah who am I kidding I’m still going to buy that add-on anyway!

So, in conclusion, those with an Arkanoid addiction should buy this game, no questions asked. As for those who aren’t particular fans of the genre, perhaps the multiplayer options and infinite retries of any level could coax you into picking it up. It took me about 2.5 hours to play through the main single player mode, though of course I am going back to try for higher scores and get 100% of the trophies. Throw in that kind of single-player replayability and the potentially limitless hours you could spend in either local or online co-op and competitive modes, and you’ve got yourself a winner here.

  • Over 50 levels if you include the bonus rounds
  • Great physics/animations
  • Trophy support, leaderboards
  • Local and online co-op and competitive multiplayer support
  • Voice chat support as well

Cons:

  • No custom music support (planned for later though)
  • Poweups can be hard to aim correctly

PlayStation LifeStyle’s Final Score


Huge number of included levels.

Complex physics put to good use.

Trophies add some good replayability, and co-op play is a treat.

8 out of 10