Ever since Tetris and the art of matching coloured blocks we’ve been pretty much hooked on such a simple concept. Arc System Works, famous for their Guilty Gear and BlazBlue series now rain down their take on the genre as rhythm puzzler Magical Beat struts its stuff on PS Vita. But just because you’ve played such puzzlers before, don’t think you’ve been there and got the tee shirt. Oh no, things are slightly different around here; this is not your average Tetris. The placement of blocks must still be positioned correctly a la Tetris, but also need to be performed quickly and to the beat. Sound interesting? You bet.
Magical Beat bangs it out as Beatons (blocks) appear at the top of the screen and need to be placed with haste at the bottom of the playing area. Remember the lively vibe of Lumines and how the music flowed throughout the game? Well it’s the same here, but with the added extra of working with the beat. The screen is split into two halves with your opponent on the right hand side. Even with the action split like this it still feels like there is a lot of space and the playing area never feels too claustrophobic.
The game is about landing perfectly timed beatons onto the correct coloured ones below. Doing this creates huge combos and also sends Jammer Beatons your opponent’s way. These Jammer beatons are blockers and the way to winning a game – sending enough of these blockers to your opposing player wins. A blue meter visually lets you know when to release the beatons and the pumping soundtrack belts out tracks with varying beats per minute. Concentration is needed, and locking in time with the beat is crucial. This is not the easiest game to master. In fact, it’s incredibly difficult to master. To help you, the game displays the next four upcoming blocks, that’s if you have the time to look. I found myself in trouble many a time and had not a spare millisecond to so much as glance.
Obviously the faster the song the quicker you need to react, and when famous tunes from BlazBlue and Guilty Gear get thrown into the equation you have a rocking on-the-go vertical puzzle-battle on your hands. The game features music by Nico Nico celebrity and sound creator Kikuo. After a while such vocal tones may grate, but I think you know what to expect here.
That being said, somehow the catalogue of songs do keep everything fresh and entice you to play more. As with Tetris style games you’re given a limited scope. A tutorial mode teaches you how to play and each battle takes you through 10 stages. Other content offers beginner, regular and the appropriately entitled Hell mode to play through. This mode will keep you quiet. Well actually it won’t; it may well drive you bonkers – you just need to go bonkers to the beat.
With the look of Magical Beat gearing more towards a retro type stance, the thirteen cute-looking 8-bit characters popping away do look super cool. While there is not a huge amount of extra content on offer the main trick up Magical Beat’s sleeve is the gimmick of rocking out to the beat, of which this game nails. Saying that though, downloadable content of pixelated versions of BlazBlue fighters like Ragna, Noel, and Taokaka and XBlaze Code: Embryo characters such as Es and Touya make special appearances which is an awesome touch. Blazblue Music & Character Packs are now available on the Store costing 59p/€0.75.
Magical Beat is a fun, clever and addictive block buster. Only the steep learning curve could possibly spoil the party. Despite the lack of depth we have a finely executed budget release that pushes all the right buttons…just make sure it’s to the beat.
Lizard Rating: 7/10