Not quite a breakout hit, but a hit Breakout.
Magic Orbz is a PlayStation Network game that has just made the leap to iOS. It’s also the latest in a lineage of games which trace their roots back to Breakout, which in itself is like a single-player take on Pong.
Typically, games of this style will have you bouncing a ball on a paddle (or “bat,” as it’s called here) around an arena, trying to clear it of all obstacles. These most often take the form of various tiles, but in Magic Orbz, you instead eliminate 3D-rendered scenery and set pieces which decorate the arena. You’ll use the ball to chip away at islands, set off cannons, and break down structures.
Along the way, your path of destruction will release various items which can both work for you or against you. In addition to granting extra lives, there are items for speeding up or slowing down the game, lengthening or shortening your bat, making the ball bigger, weaker, or explosive, and a number of armaments for the bat which allow you to take a slightly more direct hand in tearing things down. One other item even changes the backdrop from day to night, which– while pretty– can also make keeping up with the ball a little more difficult.
Each group of levels has its own theme, and while it would be nice if they were mixed up a bit so you aren’t playing the same one repeatedly, the fact is there isn’t a lot of variety in the first place. For instance, of the four available, the first two– “Pirate” and “Shark”– are virtually indistinguishable. This isn’t helped much by the fact that there are indeed sharks in the Pirate levels, and pirates in the Shark levels, making the entire concept of varied stages feel more like mild lip service. In fact, the iTunes fact sheet only states there are two settings, “Pirate” and “Jungle,” so at least it’s not like they’re trying to deceive you.
All that aside, though, the game has some catchy music and nice visuals which make the experience more interesting and engaging than your typical Breakout clone. The visual angle is at more of a 3/4 perspective as well, and while this effectively helps to obscure your ball as it bounces around the back of an unbroken arena, it nonetheless allows the game to distinguish itself further in a good way.
There are two types of controls, both equally simple, effective, and possessing their own minor drawbacks. You can move the bat either by touching and dragging it with your finger, or using a button on either side to direct it. Both work well, but can on rare occasion lead to a slight obstruction of your view of the ball. You don’t have to fumble with menu options to select either, and can switch on the fly whenever you like.
Magic Orbz is good, solid fun which takes a tried-and-true foundation and builds upon it nicely. It could do with a little more variety than what it offers, and can grow a little dull if played for longer stretches, but in quick bursts, it satisfies nicely.