If it were measured by graphics alone, Alawar’s Magic Ball 3 would receive an undisputed A+ on the Gamezebo report card. It’s a visually stunning adventure with colourful 3-D visuals that will truly impress even the most finicky of players.
But after you strip away the eye-candy, the game-play is simply a barely-above-average brick-breaking arcade game that’s not too different than similar titles, and with relatively low replayability.
Those old enough to remember games such as Arkanoid and Breakout from the early ’80s will immediately know the rules: move a small paddle left or right at the bottom of the screen to keep a bouncing ball from hitting the ground. In these classic games, the idea is to steer the ball towards the top of the screen so that it could break colored bricks. Clearing the screen advances the player to the next level, where the layout of the bricks is laid out in a different shape. Power-ups will also fall towards the bottom of the screen, which you can catch, resulting in an immediate positive or negative affect, such as initiating a multi-ball scenario or shortening the length of your paddle, respectively.
Instead of boring ‘ol bricks, Magical Ball 3 has you breaking apart a 3-D scene, such as four huge sharks advancing on a pirate ship or an apple farm surrounded by fences. Real physics are in affect here, so when your ball breaks apart the pirate ship, it falls into the sea in pieces. Similarly, you’ll see a humorous scene with 25 sheep piled high (like a cheerleader team pose) and if you take down a couple on the bottom row, many others will fall to the ground. You can hit fireworks, which sets them off into the sky, warp portals to get your ball into hard places or launch cannons, which can explode objects and cause leaves and apples to fall from trees. Great fun.
The gorgeous graphics, smooth animation and real physics all make players look forward to these humorous scenes. Every 20 levels unlocks a new theme; after pirates, it’s Halloween, then Wild West and finally, medieval.
Players can also expect many power-ups, such as laser cannons you can aim and shoot at the scene, lightning strikes that zap objects randomly, one that inflates your ball to twice its size or a champagne bottle that makes the ball appear inebriated as it twists and turns towards the scene, breaking things in its path. Some negative power-ups include a skull (if you catch it, you lose a life) and another that turns the day into night (making it harder to see).
Too bad the player will get all of these power-ups right from the beginning of the game, leaving none to unlock over time or by playing well. On a related note, while players may want to keep playing to see what the next scene will look like, Magical Ball 3 offers little playability since there’s only one game mode. You can change what your paddle looks like at the bottom of the screen (three colors), but, well, who cares. Coins will fall, but catching them just adds some points to your score – but wouldn’t it be cool if you could buy something with this cash in a virtual store, such as bonus power-ups or levels?
Another issue is some graphical bugs, especially related to text. When you’re trying to read some words from the main menu, oddly placed 1s and 0s and other “ticks” will appear on the screen. The game was installed on a second computer just to make sure.
Magic Ball 3 can be a lot of fun – anecdotally, my four-and-a-half year-old was glued to this game over the holidays – but after you strip away the great graphics, it plays like many other brick-breaking games and is even missing some features, too. Overall, the game nets a B from Gamezebo.