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Magic Orbz
  opened by paleface at 04:07:24 04/04/09  
  last modified by paleface at 03:19:28 01/25/10  
  paleface [sys=PS3; cat=Puzzle; loc=NA]
Downloadable port of a five-year-old PC game, Magic Ball is far and away the most detailed ball-and-paddle (ie Arkanoid--see entry 748) game I've ever seen. Instead of just bouncing a nondescript ball off a nondescript paddle up the screen into colored blocks, Magic Ball has you bouncing a soccer-like ball off a rounded wooden paddle sort of thing off into the distance, where it smashes through highly detailed arrangements of either seascapes, pirates, ships and sharks, or forests, knights, castles, and dragons.
The incorporated Havok physics engine ensures that the ball rebounds off this very irregular geometry in convincing fashion, and that the geometry crumbles and piles consistently. For instance, you may bash away the beach and island holding up a tower, which then topples over, strewing blocks or rocks across the playfield, which then have to be smashed up. This is all miles and miles beyond what any game of this type that I've seen has ever attempted, and it looks great, runs for the most part without slowdown (there are slight minor hitches now and then), and looks gorgeous thanks to lush lighting and smooth, colorful textures that paint highly detailed 3D storybook scenes you just can't wait to smash to bits.
Smashing blocks of course sometimes unleashes powerups for you to grab, and although some of these don't seem to do much, like the one that turns day to night, and one is really annoying--the crazy ball that makes the ball move in an unpredictable way, argh--most of them are pretty fun. You can equip your paddle with machine guns, a bazooka, or lasers, get larger balls, have your balls split into three (and if you get another triple ball after that, then you've suddenly got nine balls in play simultaneously, etc), cause an earthquake that shakes up all the blocks in the level, bring on a wind storm that blows all the blocks toward one side of the screen, and "more."
It's all quite a bit of simple fun, and not all that hard, except that toward the end they start putting in annoying things like rows of unbreakable metal bollards right in front of your paddle that ding the ball right at you and out of play, causing you to lose a "life." Things like that feel a little cheap, and I think they could have come up with better ways to make the play risky.
Scoring also isn't handled very well; you get a score per stage, but it seems pretty fixed. Completion time doesn't factor in at all, although it darn well should, and while you can in theory get combination bonuses, in practice these come very rarely--your ball has to get trapped somewhere and bounce around forever, and maybe you throw in a few powerup lighting strikes and things in the meantime, before any combo bonus will appear. You can't really plan that kind of thing on most of the stages, so pretty much the score comes out the same every time, and is thus pointless.
Still, the playing, on the non-cheap-invulnerable-blockade levels anyway, is really fun, and only ends because you run out of levels: the game currently weighs in at about 25 (or maybe it was 24) pirate stages, followed by an equal number of knight stages. The UI is kind of misleading, because you can see space for more types of stages, but once you complete the first two worlds and get to the third world's selection space, it just says "more to come" or something like that.
That was a big downer. Supposedly more stages will be coming along in downloadable content at some point, and I will probably be sucker enough to buy them.
There's a multiplayer mode, which seems to consist only of invitation matches--no matchmaking at all as far as I could tell, which means that you won't be playing this online unless you call up a buddy of yours and convince them to log in and reply to your invitation. I don't know what you do in multiplayer matches, and I'm unlikely to unless they add a real matchmaking service at some point--like almost all multiplayer games have these days.
*resists urge to make "get on the ball" joke*
  paleface 03:38:31 05/04/09
They released another world of levels as downloadable content for a few bucks, which seems like a pretty good deal since it increases the game's content by 50%. The levels look fairly similar to previous stages--they don't really include new textures, models, items, etc--but tend to have many more things in them to smash, making them consequently somewhat more fun. This holds up until three or four levels before the end, at which point they again introduce difficulty by shoving metal walls right in front of your paddle, which is very not fun. If they keep doing more of these I may just have to stop four levels before the end of each one, since that's where the fun factor has been going way downhill.
  paleface 03:19:28 01/25/10 [title updated]
The most recent set of levels, an ice world which looks nice but doesn't seem to have any different gameplay than before, renamed the game, from "Magic Ball" to "Magic Orbz." I'd spotted the name "Magic Orbz" on...I think it was on a video posted on PSN several weeks earlier, thinking it was odd that they used what I at that time thought must have been the name of the game in a different territory. But now it is definitely Orbz here.
Not only is the scoring bland, it's wonky. In trying to have a high score challenge with friends--seeing who could get the most points per level--we found that:
- a powerup in the "good" color gives you 2000 points
- a powerup in the "bad" color (usually something that makes it harder to play until it wears off) gives you 3000 points; so actually you *should* pick them up if you want a good score, and they're worth more than the "good" powerups
- the Death powerup, which kills you, gives you the most points of all: 5000
- breaking an object gives you an insignificant 10 points
- many levels have unbreakable obstacles that drop a powerup every few hits, so if you're going for score, you just want to try to hit them as much as possible
Not a very good game to play for score. :P

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