Games in the brick-smashing Arkanoid family are always welcome, and the PSN title Magic Ball from CREAT Studios brings the best twist to that venerable genre since Apple’s Vortex. Here, instead of row after stacked row of colorful bricks, the ball-and-paddle goes up against 3-D structures and objects which crumble in accordance with known physics principles thanks to creative application of the Havok engine.
The levels are divided into two shamelessly silly episodes; one pirate-themed, and the other medieval fantasy, which therefore feature galleons, sharks, dragons and princesses instead of the more traditional bricks. The levels themselves tend to be set up as visual gags, and it’s always worth taking a moment at the outset of each to appreciate the humor of the scene before proceeding to smash the crap out of it.
With physics governing every object in the game, this wanton destruction is uniquely enjoyable. Take out the base of a structure, and its component parts tumble down and scatter. Hit a loose object without destroying it, and it slides away from the impact. Each level changes constantly as you chip away at it, keeping the follow-the-bouncing-ball game play engaging.
Once there are only two or three objects remaining, a pickup spawns to let the player advance to the next level. This extremely welcome device does away with the “can’t-hit-the-last-#@!*ing-brick” problem that plagues the genre.
Apart from that, the typical guns, power-ups and handicaps are all present and correct, with a few additions. The earthquake and wind pickups accentuate the physics-based game play by doing just what they sound like they would, and hazards like teleporters and cursed fountains (which inflict a certain handicap when struck) show up in later levels, where the difficulty ramps up rather sharply.
My one complaint is the short length. With only two 24-level episodes and others to follow later, the $9.99 download feels somewhat lean and incomplete as it stands. Even so, Magic Ball does have more addictive replay value than most games of its genre, and even offers local and online multiplayer to keep you hooked until the promised add-ons arrive.
Magic Ball is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Alcohol Reference and Mild Cartoon Violence.