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NDS Review - 'Meteos: Disney Magic'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on March 19, 2007 @ 1:29 a.m. PDT

Meteos: Disney Magic lets you journey through the Disney universe and experience the puzzling action as you visit beloved characters, including Jack Skellington, Winnie the Pooh, Woody and Ariel. Meteos: Disney Magic features nine levels of puzzle gameplay from many beloved Disney properties, including an extra unlockable level.

Genre: Puzzle
Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios
Developer: Q Entertainment
Release Date: February 27, 2007

The original Meteos was your classic block-dropping puzzle game, but with an interesting and unique twist. As the blocks drops, players can vertically move the blocks with the stylus. Three of the same block in the row causes a "launch," which really sets Meteos apart from other puzzle games; rather than just vanishing or exploding, the three blocks – and every block above them – blast into the air like a rocket. In order to remove them from the screen and score points, these rockets must blast off the top of the screen. The more blocks on top of the original launches, the harder it is to launch them all off the screen. Performing multiple combos, however, causes the rockets to gain power, as well as adding a multiplier to your score. Meteos: Disney Magic adds a few twists to this core gameplay, and unfortunately, they aren't improvements.

Meteos: Disney Magic is divided up into three core gameplay modes. Story Mode requires the player to assist Jiminy Cricket and Tinkerbelle in setting things right again after some mysterious ne'er-do-well has been fooling around with the Disney stories. This plays out by going along a series of branching paths, at which players choose a specific Disney movie to help with.

Different paths have different requirements. For example, one stage, based on Pixar's excellent "Toy Story" will require the player to launch blocks containing the "Squeaky Alien" character up to the sky, in order for them to be grabbed by their god, "The Claw." Another requires you to last a specific amount of time while Stitch, from "Lilo and Stitch," works to capture renegade aliens. Completing these mission with a high score unlocks a "good ending," as well as unlocking that particular stage, complete with gimmick, in the game's other modes. Each stage also awards medals depending on how well you do, based on various attributes. A stage with a time limit will generally judge you mostly on score, while a stage where you have to launch a specific amount of blocks judges you on how quickly you can complete the stage. Collecting medals can unlock various things, but most of the time, the prizes are not worth it.

Challenge Mode allows you to take the various gimmick stages you earned in Story Mode and compete for the highest score. Rather than being restricted by a time limit or score limit, the only thing holding you back is your own skill. Versus Computer mode is very similar to Challenge Mode, but with one added twist: You're also challenging a computer opponent to a game of Meteos. Like Tetris or other games in the puzzle genre, the challenge comes in performing larger and faster combos than your opponent. Doing so sends a group of "garbage" blocks over to your opponent's side, making it harder for them to perform combos and bringing them ever closer to defeat.

The biggest problem with Meteos: Disney Magic comes in the fact that it was designed for a younger audience than the DS original. The first change comes in how you hold the DS. Rather like Brain Age or Hotel Dusk, you hold the DS sideways as you would a book, rather than with the two screens on top of one another. This causes a fairly significant change to the game's overall difficulty. The overall vertical length is significantly increased, while the horizontal length is shortened. What that means in the long run is that it is easier to perform combos, and you have a lot more room for error than in the original game.

The other big change comes with the addition of horizontal movement. As mentioned above, Meteos only allowed you to move the blocks vertically, but Disney Magic adds horizontal movement. This seemingly minor change actually makes the game significantly easier, as you can simply drag icons around to perform combos. To be fair, the game's Expert difficulty level partially does away with this addition, but overall, Disney Magic feels dumbed-down from its predecessor. For younger kids, this is an excellent decision, as it makes the core Meteos gameplay more accessible, but for those fans of the original looking for a sequel, Disney Magic is going to disappoint.

The other big change comes in the form of the titular Disney Magic. As you play a stage, your magic meter, located on the left hand side of the touch-screen, slowly fills up as you perform combos; once it's filled up, you can access one of three kinds of Disney Magic. Nitro Boost, perhaps the most dramatic of the three, allows a combo to launch the blocks into the air incredibly quickly, making it very useful for preventing an untimely game over. Slow does exactly what you'd expect – it slows down the fall of the blocks. Finally, and only available in Expert difficulty level, Horizontal Movement allows you, for a brief period of time, to move the blocks left and right in addition to up and down. These new abilities actually do less to change the core gameplay than you'd think. In the game's single-player story mode, you are heavily punished for using magic; doing so guarantees that you won't get a golden medal, and makes the chance of a silver highly unlikely.

One bright aspect of the game is the multiplayer mode. Like Vs. Computer mode, up to four players can compete against each other to see who can last the longest. This is a surprising amount of fun, even with the slightly dumbed-down features found in Meteos: Disney Magic. Furthermore, for those who are worried about finding someone else with a copy of Disney Magic for multiplayer gaming, don't worry: Disney Magic supports download play, so as long as one person has a cart, everyone can play. The only thing sadly lacking in Disney Magic is Wi-Fi play, which is a feature that would have done a lot to set Disney Magic apart from its predecessor.

The biggest selling point for Disney Magic over the classic Meteos is the addition of the Disney characters, ranging from classic characters like Simba and Winnie the Pooh to new stars like Toy Story's Woody and Buzz and Lilo and Stitch's adorable alien Stitch. The primary role these characters serve is altering the blocks on each stage. The Nightmare Before Christmas stage, for example, may be made up of some of Jack Skellington's bizarre Halloween-Christmas toys, while those found in Lion King levels are more built on the symbols and icons found within the movie. The left screen shows an animation while the game is playing that changes as you go through the stage. A scene of Pride Rock from The Lion King may start dark and covered with hyenas but slowly changes to a bright scene as you come closer to completing the goal. In Challenge Mode, this animation just loops over and over until you complete the game.

Like the graphics, Meteos: Disney Magic has replaced the original's music with something a bit more Disney-flavored. Each stage has a specific background song based on one of the themes from that movie. While it's nice to hear the recognizable music, the actual songs are fairly dull and translate poorly to such a different medium. "This is Halloween," one of my favorite songs from The Nightmare Before Christmas just loses something significant when being pumped out by the DS' speakers. It doesn't sound bad, per se, but what was once extremely memorable music becomes nothing more than tinny background noise. One of the unlockable features found in Disney Magic is the ability to listen to any of the songs, but it's difficult to see why one would go out of their way for this.

If you're looking for a solid and fun puzzle game for someone under the age of 10, Meteos: Disney Magic is an excellent choice. However, if you're older than 10, it might be better to look into the original Meteos. Meteos: Disney Magic isn't a bad game by any sense of the word, but it takes an excellent original concept and waters it down just enough that it loses the magic of the original Meteos. Sadly, I can't even recommend this as a sequel to the original game, as the changed features are going to be upsetting to anyone who was a die-hard Meteos fan. However, as a children's game, Meteos: Disney Magic succeeds admirably.

Score: 7.0/10

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