GDC: Hands-On Magnetica
Nintendo showed off an English build of their upcoming puzzler, and we went hands on...
Whatever you do, just don't call Magnetica a Zuma ripoff. It's true that Zuma fans will feel right at home with Nintendo's upcoming puzzler, however. Twisting paths of colored marbles curve around the screen. Using the stylus gamers fire colored marbles from the center of the screen into the marble pathway. When three like colors touch, they disappear. Magentica is actually a long-running Japanese franchise known as Puzzloop, which was a major inspiration for Popcap Games' Zuma.
Nintendo had the English version on-hand on the convention floor, and once we got started playing it was actually extremely difficult to stop. The main meat and potatoes of the game is its Quest mode. Each level (we counted over 50, but its hard telling how many there are total) features a new pattern for the marbles to follow, as well as a different number of marble colors, and different marble scroll speeds.
We only played the first six or seven levels, but there was already a well-defined difficulty curve, that early on. By including more colors to delete or faster marble scrolling speeds the difficulty was ramped up pretty quickly. Every single level keeps a record of your high score and your completion time, creating significant replay value.
Challenge mode puts gamers up against an endless wave of marbles, with their scrolling speed determined by the difficulty selected (easy-hard) -- hi-score is the name of the game. The longer your round lasts the more colors are introduced, and the faster and more frantic the experience becomes.
Magnetica's last mode is the obligatory Puzzle mode. We counted 60 puzzles total, and they play about how you would expect. You have a set number of marbles available in a set pattern, and you have to figure out the perfect way to launch them to create a chain reaction that will clear the full line of marbles on the board.
Even being a big Zuma fan, I was surprised with Magnetica's quality. It was surprisingly hard for me to pull myself away from the demo. The game has a robust combo system to encourage more than just mindless marble shooting, and the stylus control fits the game perfectly.
The game is currently slated for a June 5 release, and based on this first look Modojo suggests that DS owners keep it on their radar.