The arcades may have gone extinct long ago, corralled by fat nostalgia freaks and put on display in basement games rooms, but those old enough to remember them will perhaps recall their sound and fury fondly. These days, to get a similarly gaudy coin-clunk experience, you'll have to take up gambling, which comes with its own share of problems beyond the repetitive strain of gaming.
Magic Sword may not ask you to empty your pockets of 50 pence pieces, but it is an often commendably accurate rendition of the arcade original. Sure, Magic Sword was never king of its field, and perhaps you've never even heard of the game, but there's no mistaking its origins.
You play the token bold warrior who must scale Dragon Keep in order to destroy the black orb, which has apparently awoken. Yep, back in the arcades, the ability to tell a game's story within three speech bubbles' worth of text was more important than it making sense. No matter though, because the scant story suits the button-mashing hack 'n' slash gameplay perfectly.
Trimming all fat off the side scrolling sword-wielder, Magic Sword is strictly side-on, so there's no moving around within the background. With 30 floors of the tower to explore and a quick prologue to play through, your first assumption may be that the mindless sword-swiping will start to get old quickly. However, Magic Sword manages to shrug atrophy off its shoulders with aplomb. You see, compared with many arcade classics, Magic Sword is a little bit loony.
It's not that there's any particularly interesting or original element to it, but the action is a chaotic orgy of movement. You get to pick up various sidekicks to accompany you, presumably taking the place of the second player that could fit easily around an arcade cabinet. The AI of these additional characters is about what you'd expect of the game's aged source material, but at least they don't prove to be the proverbial dead wood that computer-controlled allies often turn into, instead moving mechanically along with the scrolling of the screen.
There are some platform sections too, but here the limits of the keypad against the classic arcade stick become a bit more apparent. Jumping with a mobile keypad just doesn't work as well. However, as the original was clearly a title of minor aspirations in this platforming sense, the issue isn't a deal-breaker.
More disappointing is the 'black bars' effect that limits the otherwise charming visuals. Sure, it allows a greater expanse of game area to be visible, but it also means that the sprites are limited to a relatively small number of pixels. Then again, more complicated textures may be asking too much of the mobile handset when this game already takes up the best part of a megabyte.
Such game sizes aren't commonplace for what might be described as a B-grade title. However, look beyond the game's lack of subtlety and may find yourself happy with this slab of retro action. It may not have the brains to charm its way into your long-term gaming playlist, but thanks to its generous visual variety and unashamed over-the-top-ness, Magic Sword is not entirely without its own sort of charm.