Magnetica Review

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Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Mitchell Corporation

Platform: DS
Reviewed on DS

Fling magnetic marbles to protect a reactor at the end of a long path from endless encroaching multi-colored marbles. Should the stream of marbles reach the reactor at the end of a fixed path, this puzzle game is over.

Kyle Ackerman

Magnetica is a straightforward puzzle game that takes full advantage of the DS touch screen and microphone to provide many hours of simple fun. The game is based on Mitchell Corporation's 1998 game Puzz Loop, but since Puzz Loop's popularity was confined to Asia, this style of game is more familiar to North American games as Zuma, a mainstay for casual gamers. The core play is simple: magnetic marbles slowly proceed along a path while the player uses the touch screen to send marbles from a launcher at the marble stream – if three or more marbles of the same color are in contact, the marbles are eliminated. The player must protect the reactor that rests at the end of the marble path, for if a marble reaches the end, the game is lost.

Magnetica takes this simple premise and runs with it all the way around the block. Not only does the quest mode for Magnetica explore branching and intertwining paths, it adds all manner of obstacles and strange twists. Over the course of sixty levels (not counting the bonus boss levels) it introduces black holes that pull hurled magnets from their paths, and gravitons that repel magnetic spheres. Bonuses can slow or stop the incoming stream of marbles, sometimes dispensed by a slot-machine–like device. There are bearings that can only be eliminated by destroying a set of spheres nearby and floating viruses that convert colored marbles to bearings. There are even ion clouds that fill the DS screen with smoke that obscures the game that can only be cleared by blowing into the microphone.

All these variations make the Quest mode entertaining and varied, although never difficult for a skilled gamer. Certainly, once they finish, hardcore gamers will have little reason to go back and replay individual levels of the Quest mode to beat times and scores. But this game isn't made for hardcore gamers. Magnetica is part of the "Touch Generations" line of games for the DS, designed to win over those same gamers who spend countless hours at places like PopCap Games' site. This game is meant to give a casual gamer another reason to purchase the DS, and is perfect for Zuma fans. (Zuma's sound is superior to Magnetica's, but the touch-screen interface more than makes up for the difference).

The Quest mode is filled with different and cleverly designed challenges that cause the Challenge mode to pale in comparison. The four levels of Challenge mode just hurtle magnetic spheres at you until you tire or complete 99 levels of difficulty. Only the fourth, "Special," level is interesting, and only because it features more spheres on the screen simultaneously than any other level.

The Puzzle mode is filled with clever and often deceptively simple puzzles that challenge Magnetica players to think strategically. If there is one mode that will be exciting for hardcore players, it's the Versus mode. Versus mode supports download play, so if you have a friend with a DS, you can play competitively – clearing your own screen, while sending obstacles over to your friend's field.

Magnetica is a superior implementation of a classic puzzle-game design, aimed at bringing in a new class of gamers into the fold. Hardcore gamers may want to give this one a second thought, but casual gamers and fans of Zuma-style play will be able to enjoy this game for a long time.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on August 1, 2006 9:30 PM.

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