PC Games Reviews
Casual Friday: Magic Ball 3
By Derek Boiko-Weyrauch Feb 2, 2007, 21:46 GMT
Alawar\'s Breakout-like game adds physics, three dimensions, and quicky level design to the venerable genre. But does it work?
The 'breakout' genre of games is one that has changed little since its inception in the early days of video game history. It was one of the first genres to arise following the advent of Pong, and expanded on the 'paddle' nature of that game to pit the player against an array of bricks. Powerups and different bricks have been added since, then but the core of the genre has remained mostly the same.
Magic Ball 3 from Alawar Entertainment aims to put a new spin on the old genre with physics and 3d. The game will be immediately familiar to anyone who has so much as glanced at a breakout-type game in the past: your paddle (or 'bat' as the game calls it) hits a ball, which in turn hits bricks to break them. Break all of the bricks and you advance to the next level. But the game tries to break away from the pack with its interesting physics and objects that are more than simple bricks.
The game has a story. Something about an evil wizard, a magic ball, the fabric of reality being torn asunder and so on. I think. But this just takes a back seat to the action. Magic Ball 3 does quite a number with its physics engine, which provides all manner of action and excitement. Objects in the game world don't just break: they shatter, explode, topple, and fall off the edge of the game world. It's almost more fun to see things break and fall in different ways as it is to play the game itself, and the physics make it slightly reminiscent of the old Mouse Trap board game or a game of Jenga.
The feel of the game is somewhat like a madcap Halloween party: it jumps from pirate-themed levels, to some sort of Eastern European-themed levels, to cowboy-themed levels, to medieval-themed levels. The jumps happen every 25 levels or so, and just as you get bored with one theme the game throws another one your way. The game's attention to detail really stands out with the design of the levels; pirates fight with sharks, bandits hold up banks, wolves attend a sheep rock concert (no joke), and many other offbeat permutations decorate the levels and really give you something to look at as you smash it all to pieces with the help of your magic ball.
Powerups in the game span the spectrum from beneficial to annoying to harmful to downright deadly. The best powerups in the game are the ones that alter the terrain in dramatic fashion and allow you to play with the game's physics system. Some of these trigger natural disasters such as lightning storms and meteor showers, while others let you fire lasers or missiles at terrain objects. Other powerups grant bonuses to the damage inflicted by the ball or effect it in different ways (such as by making it veer about randomly or attaching it like a yo-yo to your paddle). All of them mix things up a bit, and spice the game up in similar fashion to the terrain and the physics.
But in the end, it is still a breakout game. There is still a paddle, a ball, and some bricks to break, and Magic Ball 3 won't be converting any new fans to the genre anytime soon. It may have creative physics, snazzy 3d graphics, and innovative new powerups, but the goal and feel of the game remains the same. Certainly it stands as the epitome of the breakout genre, but that's almost like being the world's best hot dog eater: you still just eat hot dogs. All in all, Magic Ball 3 is an entertaining romp through familiar territory, and is well worth its $19.95 price tag if you're at all a fan of the genre. If you'd sooner break a brick over your head than play a breakout game, however, you may want to pass on it.
- Interesting physics system and surroundings.
- Cool powerups.
- Watching things fall down is fun.
- Repetitive gameplay.
- For all its polish, it's still a game about breaking blocks...