Puzzle-style games have proven to be quite a good fit for the DSiWare service, but some gamers have expressed concern at the growing number of puzzlers that have flooded DSiWare in recent months. Thankfully, Agetec's Magical Whip: Wizards of the Phantasmal Forest brings a fun experience to the service, and while not the most original gameplay design out there, it still proves to be quite entertaining, especially for its bargain basement price tag.
The core gameplay of Magical Whip feels a bit like a cross between the classic arcade puzzler Bubble Bobble and the rather obscure Neo Geo release Nightmare in the Dark. Your goal in each level is to completely rid the area of enemies, grabbing them with your whip and either tossing them into other enemies or off the screen completely. Once the area is clear, you'll progress to the next level.
While your character can jump, even multiple times in mid-air if you pick up the Wing power-up, the majority of the action revolves around your whip. You have two whip attacks: weak and strong. The weak whip reaches out a short distance using only a little magic, whereas the stronger whip attack stretches out much further, naturally using more magic power. Since you only have a limited amount of magic at your disposal at any given moment, you'll have to pick and choose between the two whip attacks carefully. To make things even more interesting, the game keeps track of your enemy kills in the form of combos: the more combos you rack up, the more powerful your whip attacks become. It's definitely something to keep in mind when it comes time to face off with some of the game's more difficult opponents.
As if the constant barrage of enemies and their attacks wasn't enough, you'll also have to keep an eye out for the Grim Reaper who will come after you if you take too much time in each level. A ringing bell lets you know when your time is running out and the reaper is on his way: one touch from him and you're a goner.
You'll occasionally come upon a boss fight from time to time, and these are much larger than the regular bad guys you'll be taking on and require quite a few hits in order to defeat. While you'll have a bevy of enemies coming at you that you can grab and toss at the boss, you'll also find that manoeuvring around the level can be quite tricky as well. And when you toss in an ever-changing cast of enemies, each with their own unique movements and attacks, you've got quite a challenge on your hands in later levels.
With 50 levels to tackle, you'll certainly find plenty of content to keep you coming back for more. And since you can't save during your 50 level stretch, you're going to have to do it all without turing the system off. Of course if you can beat the game with a high enough rank, you'll unlock a special mode and then be able to save your ranking. It might seem like a long progression, but given the game's tight and responsive controls, not to mention the very smooth difficulty curve, it's certainly not too tough for players willing to put in the time and practice to make the run.
Visually, Magical Whip keeps things fairly simple, but since this is a puzzler, there's not a huge need for flashy eye candy. The nice variety of enemies keeps things fresh and with the ever-changing scenery, there's always something new to look at around each corner. The cutesy musical presentation fits the game's light-hearted theme perfectly, and oddly enough, proves to be quite catchy, even over the 50 levels you'll have to traverse.
Magical Whip might borrow heavily from several other classic puzzle/platformers, but the execution and gameplay is good so it's tough to complain. The simple gameplay design makes the game extremely accessible and when combined with the rather charming presentation, makes for one of the more engaging releases to hit the DSiWare service. Whether you're a puzzler or a platformer fan, this is a release that has a lot to offer if you're willing to take a chance on it.