I’m not a puzzle guy. Oh sure, I’ve had Tetris on my cell phone as a time-waster, but I never joined the cult of Bejeweled or any of the similar knockoffs that have come along. So when I received Magical Drop V to review, two questions sprang to mind: How am I going to review a game of a type I know nothing about, and what do you suppose happened to Magical Drop I through IV?
After doing a little research, it turns out that Magical Drop originated in the mid-1990s as a relatively popular arcade series. While the games have been available on some of the console platforms, Magical Drop V is the first version accessible to PC gamers. Puzzle games are popular here in the US, but are extremely popular in some Asian countries, particularly Japan, and this one clearly caters to the Japanese audience. You begin by choosing from a list of roughly a dozen characters to compete in matches. The ultimate goal is to defeat all your opponents, and thereby receive the “magical drop” of your wishes. This magical drop is only available once every 10 years and is achieved through total victory over your opponents.
You compete in story mode against the CPU or in multiplayer in a contest in which you try to catch falling colored balls, then toss them back up as more lines of orbs descend from the top of the screen. You win your match one of two ways – fill your quota bar before your opponent fills theirs, or fill their side of the screen with dropping lines of colored balls. The key to victory is catching the right balls and throwing them back up to create combos that accelerate the filling of your quota bar, while at the same time overwhelming your opponent’s side of the screen with dropping lines. You can control your character using the keyboard or game pad, the default method being the Xbox controller.
On initial download from Steam, I wasn’t able to remap the keyboard controls, but at some point the game was updated so that limited remapping was available. The lack of mouse support had me puzzled, but again, this was originally an arcade series that continues to show its console roots. The game installs easily enough, and the graphics are serviceable, with lots of bright colors, but limited animation; about what you would expect from a 2D game. MDV shows its nods to Japanese appeal with very Pokemon-looking characters who spout poorly translated English dialogue. I was never sure if this was purposeful or not, but it did leave me scratching my head at times. Perhaps more problematic is that the game makes you repeatedly go through the same screens time after time before you play, making what might’ve been cute or humorous once, incredibly annoying the fifth or sixth time.
MDV is poorly documented, so a relative noob like myself didn’t know where to begin. I opted to play with my keyboard and settled on the default layout, chose a character, set difficulty to easy, and proceeded to get totally owned by the CPU. After a few matches I decided I was overthinking the whole thing and moved to just trying to have fun. And to my surprise, I did. I got into the fast pace, the strategy of making combos, and improving my performance grades, which you get at the end of each match. I slowly got the hang of it, ultimately earning my character the elusive magical drop after seven matches that took me a total of 10 minutes to play. A good puzzle gamer could rip through all dozen or so characters in an hour or two. Other than improving your match grades, on solo there really isn’t much replayability. Multiplayer might have been interesting, but repeated attempts to find a head-to-head match proved fruitless.
Many Avault readers are likely hardcore gamers, people who spend hundreds of hours creating a level-cap character or exploring every nook and cranny of a game world. The reality is most people who sit down to play a video game do so casually; 10 minutes here, a half hour there, playing social media-type games. As I reviewed Magical Drop V it was important for me to keep this difference in mind. Despite the quirkiness of Magical Drop V, I had fun with the game. The graphics won’t make your head explode, the controls are less than desirable, and the language translations are obnoxious at times. But it is what it is – a brief, old-school time-waster that might appeal to the average gamer.
Publisher: UTV Ignition Entertainment
Developer: Golgoth Studio
System requirements: Windows XP/Vista/Win 7/Win 8, 2 GHz Intel Core2Duo or better CPU, 2 GB RAM, GeForce 8800 GT or better graphics card, DirectX 9.0c-compatible sound device, DirectX 9.0c, 500 MB hard-drive space
ESRB rating: Not rated
Release date: Available now