If 2012 has been the year of the hybrid mobile game, then we can't think of a more appropriate way to start easing into the Christmas break than with a game that blends the simplistic bat-and-ball gameplay of Breakout with the physics-puzzling action that has almost come to define mobile gaming as a whole.
In each of Magic Orbz' many levels, set in coves and temple ruins, you'll have to face off against a diorama of activity, and destroy all of the objects with the balls that you bounce around the screen off your bat. Buildings crumble once weakened, pirates crash into the water with a few well-timed hits, and circling sharks require precision aiming if they're to sleep with the fishes.
To help with this challenge, you occasionally receive upgrades from destroyed objects, which you'll need to scoop up with your bat without letting the ball drop off the bottom of the screen. Some will arm you temporarily with weapons like cannons and lasers, while others will increase the number of balls on the screen. Beware the skull and crossbones though, as letting this touch your bat will take a life away from you.
There are environmental effects you can pick up too, such as crescent moons which extend the time of your power-ups, earthquakes which unsettle the physics of the level, meteor strikes that rain fiery hell down on the bay, and even wind storms which unsettle lighter buildings and enemies. All of these help to bring the islands to life, and there's a murderously catchy soundtrack tootling away in the background too.
You'll also pick up coins during your gameplay, and these can be spent in the store to provide a temporary advantage. Buy a rope and it will stretch across the bottom of the screen, saving you from one miss, while the magnet causes the ball to stick to the bat on each return. Alternatively, you can just treat yourself to a bazooka to really shake things up and get a head-start.
Magic Orbz always entertains but one gripe we had is that the default play speed is really rather slow in comparison to typical Breakout games. You'll delight when you grab the upgrade that speeds things up, but groan with despair when you get the slow-down debuff, particularly when you only have a few more objects to smash into. It would have been nice to tweak the challenge a little, and also position the ball on the bat itself when making that initial launch.
If you're looking for something a little bit different in the Arkanoid genre, then we really can't recommend Magic Orbz enough. Speed and control niggles aside, it's an incredibly imaginative title that might lean on an old staple of gaming for its core gameplay, but also freshens the experience up enough to make a corner of that genre its own.
What's Hot: A very imaginative Breakout game, with a huge amount of content and some very juicy upgrades.
What's Not: Normal play speed is too slow, which is great for kids but might leave older gamers wanting more.