Super Breakout, well, that takes me back. Of course, I wasn’t even an idea back when it first released, but being the gaming hog that I was in the mid-late nineties, I tried pretty much anything that could be played with a pad or keyboard. Super Breakout had such a simple concept, being that you control one singular platform along the bottom of the screen and must bounce a ball upwards to break several barriers until the screen was clear. Simple stuff, but addictive. Magical Brickout tries to tap into this formula, but sadly fails to do so.
The concept remains the same, save a few adjustments to the fields of play. You see, instead of moving a small platform from left to right along the bottom of the screen, here, you’ll be rotating a range of platforms in a circular motion. The aim of the game is to clear all of the platforms that matter, whilst keeping the ball from flying off the screen. It sounds practical and to some degree, quite easy, but in practice, it’s far removed from anything I would consider as fun. Don’t get me wrong, it’s somewhat fun to begin with, but that’s it.
I’ll start off by commending the decent fantasy-esque soundtrack that’s most dominant at the main menu. It’s upbeat, it sticks in your head and above all else, it sets the mood of the game well. There’s a light story thrown into the mix that revolves around some horrible artwork, frequently poor dialogue, and a fairy-nabbing evil wizard that you’ll pursue and overcome. Don’t come into this game expecting to see more than that because if anything, the plot serves as a simple frame to tie the pacing and theme of the gameplay together.
The gameplay takes place on top of a single-screen backdrop. This backdrop is typically used to relay what formation the platforms on the fore-screen will take to. If there’s a door that you need to break through, your platforms will resemble the shape of a rectangle. If there’s a fountain in the background, your platforms will collectively retain the same sort of shape, and, well, you get the idea. There’s some decent artwork on show as far as the backdrops are concerned, lending the game its distinct personality throughout as a result.
The backdrop is presented through a circular cut-out, which serves as the gameplay’s parameters. Outside of this circle, there’s one vial on either side of the screen. The one on the right will fill up as you multiply your scores, whereas the one on the left will dish up additional balls when it reaches the brim. Both vials are typically filled-up when you’re smashing platforms into smithereens, which is a lot simpler than it sounds. There’s also some added info on top of each vial; current score, ball-count, time and so on and so forth.
The ball will always spawn in the dead center of the screen, flying north the moment you begin to play. The game does a good job at feeding you into the basics of play, but before long, Magical Brickout will let go of your hand completely. The aim of the game is to rotate the platforms so that the ball hits the target platforms that you’ll need to destroy, in this case, we’re trying to free trapped fairies from their blocky doom. Though, it didn’t take too long for the game’s most glaring issues to come into view. Where to begin? Where to begin?
First and foremost, the ball doesn’t seem to travel in a path that’s natural once it’s bounced from a platform. Instead, it seems to have a mind of its own. The physics here just don’t make any sense and this unpredictable nature of the ball’s behavior makes for some baffling and frustrating losses. This isn’t much of an issue to begin with because most of the stages are quite compact, but as soon as you begin clearing platforms and losing that sense of padded security, this problem becomes much less forgivable and much more annoying.
Too many times did I lose balls to the edges of the screen over issues like this. What’s particularly gutting about it is that this very function should have been the game’s most refined feature, given that it’s basically the foundation of the entire experience. Each stage comes to an end once all of the fairy platforms have been smashed. However, there’s also some other platforms that will either buff or de-buff the ball, as well as cause the screen to endure altering overlays, such as that of a fiery burn that will obscure the view momentarily.
Rounding all of this off are the standard platforms, which go towards filling your vials. One of my biggest gripes with Magical Brickout is that the platform formation is far too baffling to work out. Take, for instance, placing fairy platforms behind de-buff platforms. It’s hard enough to try and get the ball to bounce where you want it to go, let alone trying to outmaneuver some poorly placed de-buff platforms that seemingly need to be smashed before you can get behind them. It’s just not a very well balanced game in this regard, at all.
The same can be said about the overall difficulty curve. I thought Magical Brickout’s difficulty fluctuated far too much. The game would have benefited from a difficulty that gradually climbed in complexity, rather than that of one that bounces from easy to hard, to easy to impossible. It would have been nice to see some alternate functions when it comes to the boss battles too, rather than a copy-and-paste format based on everything you’ve done in the game up until that point, with the addition of an evil face in the background.
I also found issue with some of the effects that frequently pop-up on the screen, making it hard to keep track of where your ball is going at any given time. I’ve no doubt whatsoever that fans of that classic Super Breakout foundation will appreciate and enjoy what’s on offer, but I wouldn’t pin too much hope on seeing anything worthwhile here. Nothing really merges together well, nor does it feel particularly well developed or refined. Everything between the poor ball physics to the frustrating layout of most levels will do little to excite.
Magical Brickout takes that classic Super Breakout formula and attempts to reinvent it. Sadly, however, the end result is one that will frustrate and annoy you far more than it will entice and excite you. The game’s lack of refinement is its main issue, with several poor design choices following closely behind. Die-hard fans of the concept may find some enjoyment, but if you’re looking for quality, look elsewhere.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.