Games like Breakout and Arkanoid are as old as gaming itself, successful due to their simplicity and addictive qualities. It's actually quite surprising that each console's downloadable games service isn't already full of software like this, but thankfully Creat has stepped in to restore order with a title of its own -- Magic Ball.
Indeed, Magic Ball is fundamentally a classic case of ball paddling action, but just because it's based on games from the seventies, that doesn't mean it's lost any of the addictiveness that made those games such a hit.
However, is there really room in our modern, hurly burly lives for such recycled game design? Read on as we review Magic Ball and find out.
Magic Ball (PlayStation Network)
Developed by Creat Studios
Published by Creat Studios
Released on January 15, 2009
Most readers will already have played Magic Ball in spirit, and should find themselves right at home with the simple concept of a paddle, a ball, and an arena full of things that need to be destroyed. If, for some reason, you have never played a game like this, just imagine a cross between a pinball machine and Pong, then you're more or less there.
The main difference between Magic Ball and other Breakout/Arkanoid clones is primarily its aesthetic value and use of physics. Rather than give you a set of blocks that can be destroyed upon contact, each Magic Ball arena is a scene of people, buildings, and landmarks which can take any number of hits to be broken up, often sending your ball bouncing around the arena from target to target.
Not only does this make the game look visually engaging and fresh, but the Havok physics that power their reactions to being hit makes each ball shot feel unique and can lend a real sense of devastation to the scene if you land the right ball at the right time.
Powerups feature prominently, falling from destroyed objects in the hopes of being collected by a lucky paddle. These can be incredibly useful at the right moment. The Iron Ball is a joy, as it crashes through any object, regardless of its strength, and can chew up the arena in no time. Paddle-mounted weapons can play a huge part in the game, ranging from cannons to lasers to machine guns, all with unique properties.
Of course, where there are powerups, there also exist powerdowns, some of which can have horrible influence over how the game goes. The Crazy Ball is by far the nastiest, as it turns the ball into a spherical parody of Oliver Reed, drunkenly staggering around with an unpredictable path. The instant-death Killer Skull is no joke either.
There is a wide range of content, so Magic Ball will give you plenty to do for your ten bucks. The main game consists of fifty levels, split down the middle between a pirate theme and a knight theme. While each stage is uniquely crafted, it has to be said that the themes can get repetitive. Twenty-five straight levels of pirate-oriented ball puzzling can get very old, and while the music is pleasant, the lack of variety can grate.
As well as a single player mode, there is also co-op and versus games, which can be played online. They act just like the main mode, except two paddles share the screen, and each player only has access to half the normal paddle range. While a fun and welcome addition, I find that the limited movement and two dashing paddles onscreen can be quite distracting. It's definitely worth trying out though, since things can get even more frantic when you're attempting to beat another player to the high scores.
Magic Ball is a great PSN game, with a bright and vibrant look, an endearing sense of character and some wholly addictive, if rather derivative, gameplay. The amount of content, plus the promise of DLC, should keep fans of simple-yet-moreish titles occupied for quite a while. Well worth the cash if you're after something that goes back to basics.
Score: 8.0 -- Great (8s are impressive efforts with a few noticeable problems holding them back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.)
reviewed by Jim Sterling