We've seen a wealth of "falling object" puzzlers since Tetris hit the scene in the 80's, some better than others. Data East's Magical Drop introduced a few new tricks to introduce a fun puzzler experience into arcades that turned quite a few heads during the time. As a follow-up, the company created two sequels on SNK's Neo Geo arcade system and the result was two of the best puzzle games to come out of the era. Now with the release of Magical Drop II on Virtual Console, Wii owners can finally get a taste of the unique puzzle action that Neo Geo fans have been enjoying for years.
Somewhat reminiscent of Puzzle Bobble, the game challenges you to use your clown in order to grab up balloons that are falling from above and put together groups of three or more of them in a vertical row in order to rid the board of them. This can also set off chain reactions of like-coloured balloons that are adjacent to the balloons being popped as well. Of course if you find yourself unable to keep up as the pace quickens, you can always make use of special item balloons that can allow you to take large chunks off the board if you can access them at just the right time.
There are basically two ways to play the game. You can take on the game in a marathon-type mode where you try to rack up the highest score you can before the balloons overtake your clown at the bottom of the screen, or you can face off against the CPU or another player in a head-to-head battle that will allow any balloons you take out on your side of the playing field to drop down onto your opponent's side of the playing field. If you thought the regular mode was intense, wait until you see this mode in action.
The controls of the game are so simple that virtually anyone can quickly get into the game, but don't let that fool you; the game might start off tame enough, but it won't take long before you see why puzzle fans call this one of the most intense puzzlers ever made. And if the medium difficulty isn't enough for you, you can always crank it up to expert and see how you fare. You can generally tell a great puzzle game by how difficult it is to stop playing and Magical Drop II will definitely keep you coming back for more with its addictive and manic gameplay design.
If you've played many of the other 16-bit puzzle releases of the era, you should have a pretty good idea of what to expect from Magical Drop II. It features the vivid and colourful backdrops you'd expect from a game of this nature and the amazing tarot card characters that are featured in the game's theme give the playing field a really attractive and engaging look. It's nice to see that even with such a simple premise that the developers still managed to put some effort into the presentation.
To say that the main musical track in Magical Drop II is catchy would be a gross understatement. It's one of those tunes that you'll have stuck in your head long after you've stopped playing the game, but the only problem is that there's not much variety beyond it. There are some interesting sound effects to liven the action up a bit, but in all honesty, there's not a lot to it given the game's rather simple design.
Magical Drop II might not be the most original puzzler idea ever crafted, but it is certainly one of the most intense. The simple and addictive gameplay scheme makes it the kind of game that's easy to pick up and play yet nearly impossible to put down once you to. If you're even the slightest bit a puzzle game fan, you owe it to yourself to give Magical Drop II a try, especially if you like your puzzlers with a competitive twist.