Few games have ever brought anything truly new to the Breakout formula. Sure some good clones exist, but it’s beyond rare when a game takes classic block-breaking gameplay and adds an original spin that makes things truly feel fresh. Arkanoid did it in 1986. Now 23 years later, Magic Ball can lay claim to the same success.
Rather than using the ball to break blocks, Magic Ball has you destroying fully 3D dioramas. The environments that you’ll be playing in our living physics playfields. When you hit something with the ball, any of the objects that depended on that piece structurally will be affected and fall accordingly. Weather power-ups like wind and earthquakes will cause the pieces in play to react realistically and completely change the playfield. This is what makes Magic Ball so different – a fully-realized 3D environment and physics-affected gameplay. While the core of the game is based on the classic Breakout, the stacked nature of destructible pieces and the realistic movement of the pieces upon destruction changes everything.
Magic Ball has a distinct charm that I haven’t seen in many other games in recent years. Broken up into 2 campaigns of 25 stages, each campaign takes place in its own environment. The first of these takes place in a pirate-themed ocean where skeletons, sharks, and booty abound. The second has a knights-in-armor type vibe to it. Everything is very colorful, cute, and detailed. It’s just a warm, fun feeling. The kind of thing that’s miles away from hardcore, but challenging just the same. The game knows what it is, and the visuals don’t try to be anything it’s not.
Each piece in play, be it a skeleton, king, or tree, feels like a carefully crafted high school diorama. It’s an odd word to use when talking about a game (and I’ve used it twice), but I can’t think of any other way to describe it. Imagine if someone lovingly crafted a pirate scene using different objects and figurines, and you went in like a jerk and tossed a little ball around to knock all the pieces apart. That’s how everything reacts. Don’t expect lifelike “this is how a pirate ship/shark/castle would react” physics. It’s definitely more of a “this is how a high school diorama would act” physics, and it’s a perfect fit for the gameplay.
Power-ups and power-downs offer up a good deal of variety, while at the same time having a few distinct categories. Some power-modifiers, for example, will change the ball. Others will bring in weather elements. Still, others will change the size of your paddle, equip weapons, or even modify the playing field with a protective wall. There’s a good variety, but you’ll quickly find your favorites. Despite having those favorites though, a good deal of what makes this game fun is knowing what power-ups to use when.
The strategy isn’t something you’d really think was needed in a Breakout-style game, but thanks to the varying power-ups you can really think things through to turn a bad situation to your advantage. Example; While I love the iron ball because it blitzes through EVERYTHING, I’d rather get my ball behind a playfield where it can do more damage by bouncing and score the big ball power up to ensure maximum bustitude.
As a casual game with a good deal of challenge, it’s hard to find any real negatives with Magic Ball. Sure it’s a little shorter than you might like, and it seems like a missed opportunity to put Sixaxis controls to good use, but overall it’s an experience that shouldn’t be missed by anyone who enjoys addictive simplicity. While you can play through the 50 included stages in a matter of hours, TikGames have announced that additional stages will be made available for download in the new future. Regardless, this is the kind of game that doesn’t suffer from a lessened experience on a second playthrough. Mastering each level can become something of an obsession, and at the $10 price point, you’ll easily get the worth of your money. If you’ve ever been a fan of classic block-busting games like Breakout and Arkanoid, you owe it to yourself to try out Magic Ball. It’s fresh, it’s new, and most of all it’s fun.
Magic Ball is available now on the PlayStation Store for $9.99.