Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Review : Magical Beat (PSVita)

Does it beat the competition or is it just tone deaf?

Magical Beat for Vita by Arc System Works is a rhythm based falling blocks puzzler with a fighting twist, taking its cues from games such as Tetris, Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo and Lumines. Sadly for this title it never really seems to match up with the quality of its predecessors or the scope of its vision.

Its core mechanics are simple, drop coloured blocks to form groups in order to send attacks towards the CPU (Or human) player you are against, so far so standard. However where this title adds its own twist is with the use of a rhythm system, in order to correctly drop the blocks and get them to go where you want you have to send them down to the beat of the background song, unfortunately due to the styles of music on offer (of which I am not a personal fan) I found that the only way I could effectively time the dropping of the blocks was to use the metronome found on the right of the area, press it when in the blue area and your blocks go where you want them. Press it outside of the blue OR take too long about your choice (a seemingly random timer) and the blocks split into singles and fall where they please in an attempt to screw up your combo.

 Adding to this crazy mix is the combo system, whenever the enemy gets a combo a selection of single blocks fall, blocking your ability to create links unless they are first removed by doing a link on top of them. You attack in the same way, but honestly the game totally throws you in at the deep end after a 30 second tutorial and so you have very little time to look at the other side of the field, and to successfully beat your opponents you need to be aggressive and learn quickly how to best build those combos to clear vast swathes of the board to grind their progress to a halt.

Featuring very few battle modes, virtually nothing outside the core you would expect there to be more of a hook with the characters but there is no story, dialogue or even explanation of what is going on. Nor is there really any obvious differences between the characters other than sprites and a short bio when selecting them. As a story driven gamer this was very jarring for me.

Graphically it is really nothing special, but it doesn't really need to be. It’s colourful & blocky sprites and overall scheme are enough for a title where you will spend next to no time looking around the screen, if I was to point anything out I would do differently, I would say that a few animated cut-scenes for special attacks or something similar might have gone a way towards making its style more interesting.

Now we move onto sound, unfortunately this spoilt it for me personally and I know this will be a divisive point for many people. With its mix of electronic, dubstep and various other upbeat and happy styles the music is fast enough to allow frantic gameplay but with the Vita speakers being quite weak there is no real feel of the beat which I feel spoils the core gameplay. The big hang up however is the Vocaloid theme found throughout, a style of singing I find impossible to spend more than a few minutes with, the Vocaloid singing is found in almost every track and although will be a big plus for fans, those who dislike it will find themselves quickly raging.

Magical Beat is both challenging and after a while fun but the learning curve is crushingly intense and the difficulty ramps in massive spikes, if you are a fan of the musical styling and puzzlers with a twist then this is ideal for you.


Who should buy:

  • Fans of musical/rythm games
  • Someone looking for a new play in bursts title
  • Players wanting a little twist on the typical Tetris-ish game
Who should avoid:

  • Players who dislike the Vocaloid musical style
  • Players wanting a deep story
  • Anyone looking for an easy game

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