Review: Magical Beat (PS Vita)

This review series is dedicated to new games with a retro look and/or feel. It has become a popular trend to develop games with 2D pixelated graphics and chiptune music in hopes of recapturing and reproducing the look, feel, and sound of the games we are so nostalgic for today. Some of these games take the best of the past and fuse it with the gameplay improvements we have grown accustomed to today, while others have simply attempted to cash in on that same nostalgia that keeps us playing retro games in the present. The goal of these reviews is to identify the retro-inspired games being released today that are worth your time and money.


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Info:

  • Title: Magical Beat
  • Platform Reviewed on: PS Vita
  • Developer: ARC SYSTEM WORKS
  • Publisher: ARC SYSTEM WORKS
  • Price: $9.99
  • How the Game Was Acquired: Review Download Code from the Publisher

While the PS Vita’s library has grown into a diverse collection of AAA (at least early in its life) and indie games, many would agree that it is lacking in the tile-based puzzle category. Of course there is the launch title “Lumines: Electronic Symphony,” but nothing of note has come after that in the past two years since release. If you are a resident of  Japan, there are a few more options on the Vita such as “Puyo Puyo Tetris,” released in February 2014. With the release of “Magical Beat” on the US PSN Store, Vita owners now have some more variety in the genre.

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If you took “Rhythm Heaven,” “Hatsune Miku,” and “Puyo Puyo,” and threw them in a blender, “Magical Beat” would be the result. This new puzzle game from ARC SYSTEM WORKS takes the classic puzzle game mechanic of matching at least three blocks of the same color together while creating chains of combos and adds a few twists. Upon successfully matching a set of blocks, they will be removed from your stack. And depending on the amount of blocks matched up, you will potentially send “garbage blocks” over to your opponent. This is standard for most “match three” games with a battle or versus component. “Magical Beat” takes that structure and adds one significant play mechanic in the form of its rhythm timing system meshed with some crazy Japanese music.

In every mode you are matched up against one of the thirteen A.I. opponent s. There are no real statistical differences between the characters aside from their assigned music tracks and their amusing bios which include their likes and dislikes.

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Songbird knows what’s up

Before we discuss the game’s mechanics it might be best for you to watch this video:

If you watched the video, you will understand that your enjoyment of this game is going to be placed heavily on your taste in music. The musical style of “Hatsune Miku” is the best comparison I can make to the synthesized melody in half of the tracks. The songs range from 70 to 200 beats-per-minute, this is important because the faster the beat gets, the harder it is to correctly drop your blocks. Also, the super fast tracks tended to be my least favorite, and a little brutal on the eardrums.  While I am not a huge fan of that genre of music, I enjoyed two-thirds of the tracks in “Magical Beat” and played the game while wearing a nice set of headphones and nodding my head to the beat.

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I spent the most time in “My Own Battle” mode since you can select any track and difficulty level 

Having to drop the blocks on the beat of the track is what makes “Magical Beat” stand out from other block matching puzzle games. If you drop the blocks on the beat/tempo of the song, they will drop where you originally lined them up. A metronome plays over the tracks to help you recognize the beat. If you try dropping your blocks while off the beat, they will drop in random rows. This adds a significant level of difficulty to the game, but after a few matches you will get the hang of it. This can lead to some early bouts of frustration, but they can be alleviated by sticking with the “Beginner Battle” mode (which keeps you progressing even if you lose) until you get the hang of it. The three standard game modes consist of consecutive stages. I found myself consistently going back to the “My Own Battle” mode as it let’s you select any character/song for a single match, more like a straight up versus mode. This allowed me to select the tracks I enjoyed and difficulty level suitable for my skill level. A “Playlist” option like the one offered in “Lumines” would have been a welcomed addition. There is also no online versus mode, only an AD-HOC local multiplayer option.

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“Magical Beat” is a frantic, weird, Japanese, block puzzle game that should scratch the itch PS Vita owners have had for a “Puyo Puyo” like puzzle game. Over the course of 3 or 4 hours it really grew on me and I found myself having some super intense matches where I didn’t blink very much. Your enjoyment of “Magical Beat” will depend heavily on the music, since the soundtrack plays such a major role in the gameplay. At $10 it is worth a look if you are in need for a new puzzle game on your PS Vita.

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3.5 out of 5

Pros:

  • Finally a “Puyo Puyo” style game on the PS Vita
  • The rhythm mechanic is an interesting twist to the gameplay
  • Some great music tracks that will have you nodding your head

Cons:

  • Some irritating music tracks (again all about your personal taste)
  • Lacking a playlist feature
  • No online multiplayer. Local only.

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