Posted by Stuart Reddick
How does Nintendo's ball-flicking puzzle game stand up to their other efforts?
Some games are destined to sink into obscurity, and unfortunately, Nintendo’s ball-flinging puzzler Magnetica was one of them. When the game was first released it was met with rather positive reviews but even such high critical praise wasn't enough to make a dent in the sales chart. Nintendo gave the series a second chance by releasing a new installment on WiiWare, but yet again, it became glued to the bottom of the WiiWare charts. With all that in mind, we've decided to revisit the original and see if it was a case of the public unfairly ignoring a classic.
In Magnetica (which is based on an old arcade game called Puzz Loop), marbles roll down a twisted path toward the goal and it’s up to players to stop them by launching new marbles into the oncoming ones. The marbles will disappear if players match three or more in this massive marble elimination. If you've played clones such as Zuma or Bonsai Blast, then the concept will be familiar - those games are essentially based on this concept.
As the difficulty level increases, different coloured marbles will be thrown into the mix, making it even harder to create large combos; it’s here where the strategy part of the game kicks in. It’s simple enough to just randomly fire marbles in every direction, but in order to rack up a high score, it’ll take both a steady hand and a sharp brain. While Magnetica appears to be easy on the outside, it proves to be quite a challenging concept when playing.
And in order to make Magnetica appealing to everyone, the developers tuned the controls to perfection. Using the touch screen, players flick balls towards their similar coloured breathren. Simply put, the controls feel very natural and accessible and work wonders for the game.
In the game’s Quest mode, players will find themselves working their way through a bunch of unique stages, each adding their own unique element to the mix. Some stages may introduce a rather simple notion - such as a differently shaped track for your balls to travel along - whereas others feature much more complex ideas. It’s definitely the highlight of Magnetica and probably where players will find themselves spending most of their time to.
On the other hand though, there’s also a more tradition Puzzle mode. Unlike the Quest and Challenge modes, there are no time restrictions here. Instead though, you’re provided with a set amount of balls that you must use to clear all the ones that appear on the screen. While certainly not as enjoyable as the game’s other modes, it does prove to be a nice diversion for a couple of hours.
Although Magnetica proves to be one of the most enjoyable and head-scratching offerings on the DS, Mitchell never really put enough emphasis on making the game’s visual and audio stand out from the pack. Seeing as each level takes place on a bland grey stage, it would’ve been nice to see a little more color, especially considering that you’re going to be staring at the screen for hours on-end.
While Mitchell has nailed the stylus control and concept of Magnetica, they've failed to impress when it comes to visuals and audio. That issue aside, Magnetica is an excellent addition to the anyone’s Nintendo DS library, both casual and hardcore puzzle fans alike.