Taking a break from the hardcore fighting game scene, Arc System Works has produced one of the most addicting musical puzzle games in recent memory. Initially, I thought Magical Beat would be a title in the similar vein as Lumines, but I was pleasantly surprised when it felt like a rhythm based version of the gem matching Puzzle Fighter. The lack of online multiplayer however may keep Magical Beat from having an encore.
In Magical Beat, you’ll always be pitted against an opponent, with the goal to match up three or more blocks, called “beatons” of the same color. The blocks don’t instantly disappear, allowing you to swiftly act and create combos by continuing to drop blocks of the same color on the highlighted blocks. The blocks only remain highlighted for a couple seconds and there doesn’t seem to be any visual queue as to when they are disappearing. Chains of the blocks will send garage blocks to appear on your opponent’s side. The bigger the chains, the more blocks your opponent has to contend with.
Unlike other puzzle block games, blocks in Magical Beat don’t fall in the same way as it does in Tetris. Blocks will appear at the top of your playing field, allowing you to rotate and more them exactly as you need them. Dropping them is where the rhythm part of the gameplay comes into play. On the side of your playing field is a blue meter with a line that will move across it in tune to the electric based beat. Drop your blocks when the line is in the center of the blue area to successfully drop your blocks. If you happen to miss time it, your blocks will break apart and randomly drop on your field. You’ll have the occasional “happy little accidents”, but you won’t last long if you are frequently missing your drops. There are two ways to ensure you always drop successfully; one would be to always watch the meter and the other more efficient way is to listen to the beats of the song, so you’ll never have to take your eyes off your field.
The difficulty of the AI opponents ramps up rather quickly; I suffered my first decisive loss to an alpaca with sunglasses of all things. Multiplayer should have been the highlight for Magical Beat, but unfortunately it is limited to local only with limiting options. Online matches would have propelled the game to a new level. With a solid soundtrack that includes tracks from Arc System Works’ other titles (BlazBlue and Guilty Gear), Magical Beat offers plenty of variety between the different tracks.
Magical Beat’s addicting matching gameplay took me back to the days of playing Puzzle Fighter all night with friends. In this day and age however, having local multiplayer only is quite disappointing and unforgivable. Presentation wise the game receives has marks for the cute retro style visuals, but be prepared for Japanese style menus, as X and O are reversed. There are plenty of DLC tracks and characters for those looking to get more out of Magical Beat, but I’m still holding out for an online mode to be added.Note: Magical Beat was reviewed on PlayStation Vita. A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher/developer.