Players: 1 -2
Reviewed April 2009 by Keith Murray
Those of *ahem* a certain age, will have fond memories of the old arcade title Arkanoid. While there were many variations (for most the Atari 2600 version of Breakout would have been their introduction to the concept) the simple pleasure of knocking down virtual walls is the digital equivalent of popping bubble wrap. Now this simple premise has been brought up to date with the PlayStation Network title, Magic Ball.
Of course, in today’s market, simple line graphics just won’t do, so Magic Ball’s solution is to create a variety of themed stages full of different modifiers which turn the game play on its head. The first of these themes is pirates, complete with desert islands, ships loaded with cannons and even comedy sharks to boot. To say that Magic Ball doesn’t take itself seriously is a bit of an understatement. The aforementioned modifiers are acquired by destroying certain portions of the scenery and are varied to add to the brevity.
From larger balls or cannon upgrades that can devastate large portions of a level, all are timed and making the best use of them is crucial to getting the most from the game. When the likes of Multi Ball are acquired the concentration levels have to be upped to make sure a death skull isn’t hit, which will lose the player a turn.
The game has a pleasing graphical sheen which endears itself to the player using its rich, bright palette. While the twenty four levels in each theme don’t really change in their composition, some are congested and cramped affairs which can cause a lot of trouble for those who aren’t paying attention. Sonically it has a “wacky” soundtrack which suits the game perfectly but it can grate ever so slightly after a while, making a lot of players turn down the volume or engage a different soundtrack of their own making.
Online play is a welcome addition, and it provides a bit of longevity to the title when the single player becomes a tad stale; understandable considering that, bar the change of theme, the core gameplay doesn’t change that much.
Although aimed squarely at the so-called “casual” market, there’s a lot to admire for more seasoned gamers in Magic Ball. While new and interesting titles are always welcome to the download services, sometimes an old dog can be taught new tricks.