REVIEW / Magical Beat (VITA)

 

2014 marks the 30th anniversary of one of the most successful puzzle games in the history of video games and the next-generation consoles have been promised a new release by the end of the year.  If you can’t wait and want a little something to sink your teeth into until that new puzzle game arrives, Arc System Works has something that I think will hold you over until then.  Magical Beat offers all the puzzle goodness of Tetris with the addition of catchy musical beats that is tied into the gameplay to create a fun puzzle game that will keep you bobbing your head and slamming down blocks to the beat.  The goal is to drop colored blocks in a match-3 style to the rhythm of the background music with perfect timing to send blocks to your opponents screen.  Cool 8-bit characters and menus show you how to approach the many different stages with different beats per minute for a unique challenge and combo possibilities. Magical Beat features an original Vocaloid soundtrack created by Nico Nico celebrity and prolific sound creator Kikuo.

 

There is only one type of block but it can be rotated for the best fit.

 

The setup for Magical Beat is almost identical to its puzzle game big brother.  Block sets called Beatons (think three small squares placed together to form a letter “L”) are dropped into a control area in an attempt to match three or more blocks of the same color.  You have to match at least three to have the blocks clear the control area and give you points.  The cool kicker to this game is that you aren’t just slamming them down willy-nilly but you have to do it to the beat of the song that is playing.  The game provides a handy Beat Sync Gauge to let you know when to slam your Beatons for those that are rhythmically challenged.  Miss the beat and the Beaton will break apart and the blocks will fall in a random order.  That sounds simple, you say?  Well at first it is, however, as you complete stages, the rhythms in the songs gets faster and faster and it gets a little more difficult to drop your Beatons in a way that will give you matching blocks while trying to stay ahead of your opponent.  All matches are played against an AI opponent or you can challenge your friend’s Ad Hoc or jump online and find a player to go head-to-head with.  The idea of this game is very simple but where the challenge really happens is in the later stages where the rhythm in the songs really picks up for a fun and exciting experience.

The visuals in Magical Beat are done in a cool 8-bit pixel art style.  You get to choose your own pixelated character from a group of 13 quirky characters ranging from a hipster redhead girl to a rockin’ cyclops girl to a bebopin’ head phone wearing octopus.  The character designs aren’t too detailed but they are sufficiently done and are more avatar than fully fleshed out detailed character models.  This doesn’t affect gameplay in any way and is just your in-game avatar.  Colors are bright and flashy and fits the puzzle game motif very nicely.  As you match identical colored blocks, they glow bright and explode as they make room for new blocks to take their place.  The visuals alone are a cool feature that will keep you playing for hours as your try to best your friends and get the coveted high score position.

 

See the black block on the left? Your opponent can send those over to block your progress.

 

The soundtrack in Magical Beat is definitely the high point of this game.  All songs are composed by Nico Nico sensation Kikuo and helps to make this game what it is.  The amount of music is really fantastic and the skill at which they were composed is really fascinating.  In the normal battle mode, there are ten stages that you are tasked with battling your opponent and as you progress through the stages, the rhythms get more complicated as you go along.  The tunes are very catchy and fun to listen to and in order to do well on a particular stage, it really helps to get into the song and feel the beat.  Arc System Works plans to add more music as DLC in the future from some of their other titles like XBlaze Code: Embryo, BlazBlue, and Guilty Gear.

I really enjoyed my time with Magical Beat and if you are into these types of head-to-head puzzle games then you should give this title a shot.  Be warned that there isn’t a whole lot to this game feature-wise.  It is a very bare bones game that offers only three single player modes and a multiplayer mode.  However, the single player modes will prepare you for the multiplayer experience and that is where the game really shines.  Battling your friends for prestige and bragging rights is a fun endeavor and will keep you coming back for more.  Getting the highest scores in the single player modes will also keep you playing long after you were expecting to be done with this game.  Puzzle games seem to be few and far between these days but Magical Beat presents a nice twist to the puzzle game genre and is loads of fun to play.

 

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