Is it marble madness all over again with Magnetica?
Nintendo has given quite a push to their Touch Generations logo, but they want to make sure that it's not just about "brainy" games or those that are geared towards education. Nope, they're also about classic puzzle formulas, reinvented just for the Nintendo DS, and that's what Magnetica is all about.
If the formula looks familiar, it should. It's the same formula you might have seen in the old release Puzz Loop, and it's since been rebirthed in the likes of such releases as Ballistic and, most recently, the Xbox 360 downloadable game Zuma. The concept works pretty simply. You man a cannon in the center (or near the center) of the screen, with a track leading right to you and twisting and turning its way to the end of the screen. Working its way down this track are a series of multi-colored marbles, and in your cannon you'll find similarly colored marbles. It's your job to set them up in strings of three or more to eliminate them from the playfield as they push forward. If they somehow make your way to your cannon, it's game over for you.
So the pressurized gameplay is all set. There's no real time limit, but rather a "pressure cooker" system where the marbles can build up rather quickly if you find yourself mis-aiming or aren't quick enough on the draw to eliminate them. Along the way, you'll find special icons to shoot at to slow down or destroy some marbles along the way, so keep an eye out for them. This version is a little different from previous ones, as you have to use the touch-screen for your precision aiming. Sure, it LOOKS easy at first, but it soon builds to something that requires the quickest of play.
There are three modes in all to choose from, but they don't really vary that much. You have Challenge, which gives you various stages to take on and the ability to unlock others; Quest, which strings together stages and gives you goals to complete; and Puzzle, which lets you challenge individual stages for marble-destroying superiority. All of these stages play the same, but the gameplay manages to hold up strongly, even if it might be a little frustrating for the young set that can't react so quickly to color identification. Thank goodness for the bonus items.
The game features simple graphics and sound, something that could've been easily worked on by Mitchell to take better advantage of the Nintendo DS. Look at Tetris DS. Visual flourish and classic Nintendo themes aplenty. Here, you have a soundtrack that runs the typical route, and graphics that differentiate in visuals just enough to help you recognize the play formula. There's nary a hint of individuality present, not even the tropical flourish that made Zuma stand out. This might knock the question around as to how the game's worth $35 instead of the more reasonable $20.
Fortunately, the game does have one shining aspect going for it, and that's multiplayer. Either with single cart download or the ability to hook up with a friend in multi-cart play, Magnetica remains engaging in terms of versus action, letting players rack up competing scores and trying to stay alive in their marble elimination. It isn't really as wildly addictive as Tetris, but it's very serviceable.
Magnetica is another thumbs-up puzzle game for the Nintendo DS, remaining just as creative in its gameplay as it was years ago. It's just a shame that more wasn't done in terms of the presentation or play modes to really make it worth the full price. As is, fans of this sort of game will definitely want to check it out, and some older kids and teens will want to give it a rent as well. Everyone else is best left playing Tetris DS and waiting for the price on this one to drop.
What's Hot: Fun gameplay; enjoyable multiplayer.
What's Not: Too simple a presentation; not enough variance in modes; high price.