The puzzle genre has ventured into some strange territory over the years, trying everything from crushing candies to matching (be)jewels.
When you strip away the gimmick and focus on the basic goal, however, a lot of those puzzle games are virtually the same: match colours to break blocks and score points. It's been that way since Tetris.
I can appreciate a game that puzzles to the beat of its own drum, which is exactly what Magical Beat wants to do. By mixing the classic puzzle format with a rhythm-based mechanic, this game will test more than your ability to match colours.Half Tetris...
The core of the game is lining up and matching coloured blocks (called Beatons) on a long stage.
Here three like-coloured blocks are all that's needed for a break, and two together will light up to tell you that you're close.
Unlike in Tetris, the blocks always fall in a right angle shape, which makes planning moves a little bit easier than having to wait for the damned straight line piece all the time.
Lining up combos will score you big points, but most of the time those combos will be based on luck and circumstance, rather than pure skill.
There is one added obstacle too: if you take too long to drop the blocks into the arena, they'll break apart and fall randomly, which could cause unwanted havoc.…half Parappa the Rapper
Where Magical Beat separates itself from the rest of the puzzle genre is its rhythm mechanic. Everything I mentioned above has to be done to the rhythm of the background music.
There's a blue meter on the side of your playing area, and each move you make must be made within that blue meter.
Hitting it directly in the centre will grant extra points, while missing the blue area completely brings about the random placement that occurs if you take too long.
This throws the concentration and planning of other puzzlers out the window, as now you have a limited time to place your blocks, turn them the way you want them, then drop them on the downbeat of a 180 beat-per-minute J-Pop song.
Oh, and you're also in constant battle against the AI, so if your digital opponent is matching to the rhythm faster than you you'll have grey blocks to deal with, cutting off combos and ruining your nice clean board.
Expect to practise this odd format a lot before having any success, and expect a steadily rising blood pressure in the meantime. This game can be downright merciless.Is there a point?
The game sets itself up to have a story framed around the rhythmic puzzle rumba. There are a handful of quirky characters to choose from, each with its own brief backstory.
There’s the three humanoid cyborgs, a ghost composed of "resentment and regret", an alpaca with an eye patch, and even a flower in a pot.
However, there is not a single story element to be found outside of those bios. Those characters are present entirely for show, which is disappointing.
Without the teased story, all you have is a tutorial mode, three other play modes, an ad-hoc mode for multiplayer, and that's it.
There's a lot of style here but probably not enough substance. Magical Beat is an innovative, teeth-grindingly difficult puzzler that's well worth playing, even if you don't stick with it for long.