iPhone Life magazine

Review: Magic Orbz by HeroCraft Ltd.

There was a time when “playing bat and ball” meant your kids were probably out getting a bit of exercise.  Nowadays it could simply indicate that they are sampling the latest variant of the classic Arkanoid.  Mechanics wise there’s no question that Magic Orbz pays homage to such games of old, but the environments and some of the power ups really give it a fresh feel.  Don’t get too laid back while you’re playing, though, or the challenge of the last level set will really smack you in the face.

That's A Big Octopus
 

The game employs classic breakout style mechanics, with a “bat” at the bottom of the screen that you can control either by sliding your finger back and forth at the bottom of the screen or by using left and right controls planted along the appropriate side of the screen.  I prefer the sliding method, though there are times where the bat actually seems to stop on me instead of staying with my finger.  Other than that the game pretty much handles everything, though a couple of power ups require some action on your part.  When you pause the game you have the option of buying certain power ups as long as you have some spare coins which you either collect while playing or can buy via IAP.

What I love about this game is that while it plays like an Arkanoid clone, it doesn’t look like one at all.  There are currently four level sets, and the bricks have been replaced by everything from pirates and sharks to tigers and tribal warriors.  The objects are 3D, so items that take multiple hits can be knocked around and actually get in the way of other things.  There are also neat environmental things like cannons in the water levels that actually fire cannonballs when your ball hits them and can actually damage other objects.  Certain items will produce power ups when struck multiple times, and there are even teleports that will mostly annoyingly jump your ball from one part of the screen to another.

Eclipse
 

Speaking of power ups, some might argue that an Arkanoid clone is only as good as the cool bonuses you get.  Magic Orbz has all the typical ones like growing and shrinking the bat or ball and adjusting the speed of game play.  There’s one that changes things from day to night, though I’m not sure what that affects other than making things darker.  My favorites are meteors which rain fiery rocks randomly across the board and wind which as you might expect topples things over (one of the nice perks of having a 3D playing field).  The right combination of power ups can make short work of some of the levels.

The visuals are outstanding.  The various objects look great and it’s fun to see how they are going to react to getting hit.  There’s enough animation to keep the eyes occupied, and nice little special effects like when the wind power up blows or you set off a box of fireworks in the water levels.  The sound effects are pretty decent, and it can be amusing when the ball gets trapped bouncing between several people all crying out when they get hit.  The music is lots of fun and actually fits pretty well with the themes of the level sets.  More importantly, though, is that if you’re on a level long enough it will switch to a different song so the music doesn’t wear on you.

Monkeyin' Around
 

So far Magic Orbz has been quite entertaining.  I do think there are some balance issues, as the game seemed to go from rather easy to somewhat challenging in level set 3 to “are you crazy?” in level set 4 without much of a gradual slope, but besides that and the occasionally unresponsive bat all is good in the land of 3D object bashing.  The game is visually pleasing, it sounds good, and it’s a nice take on a genre that’s almost outlived its usefulness.  The main drawback is that there are currently only 40 levels, but I would expect that to change some day.  If you’re a fan of the genre Magic Orbz is a great addition, but if you tend to shy away from this type of game you might find this one to your liking anyway.

Overall Score: 8/10
App Store Link

This game was reviewed on an iPad 2 running iOS 6.0.1.

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Eric Pankoke has been a gamer for more than 20 years. He began with arcade games, moving to consoles and eventually handhelds and Pocket PCs. Now he spends most of his time on one of his iOS devices. Eric has written more than 700 gaming reviews, which have appeared on a number of gaming websites as well as several issues of both Smartphone & Pocket PC and iPhone Life magazines. He regularly contributes to iphonelife.com and TouchMyApps. Ultimately he hopes to eventually develop games himself for whatever the hot mobile device is when he finally gets moving.