Developer: Cunning Force Games
Publisher: Black Shell Media
Platform: PC, Mac, Linux
Tested on: PC
Magical Brickout – Preview
From Cunning Force Games comes a game that a number of people will recognise and love from their childhood, but with new added elements which have reinvented the genre. Magical Brickout has been in Early Access on Steam since August this year to ensure that the community has its say on what to improve on. What exists currently though is an arcade game that will definitely keep you playing for hours.
Magical Brickout is an action arcade game based on the original game Breakout, but with a pleasant and creative twist- it actually has a story! In the land of Wonderia, the fairies are in danger. The Evil Wizard is creating a grand fortress, and to imbue it with unstoppable power, he is capturing fairies and placing them in magical bricks to build his wicked home with. With a host of cohorts standing between you and the defeat of the Evil Wizard, you must free the fairies- and restore Wonderia to the beautiful serenity that it once was.
The game starts off with the offer of a tutorial section, which is very thorough as it explains each element of the gameplay. Spacebar gets the magical orb moving, whilst the left and right directional keys move the board left and right (a gamepad option is available, but we were not able to test this). A notable difference from the standard Breakout formula here is the shape of the board itself. Instead of a flat plane, you are offered a circular board which makes for some interesting gameplay indeed, as it requires more skill to ensure that the ball doesn’t go off the screen. The board is placed upon a different background each time, giving you a sense of progression within the story, although it does prove to be a tad distracting at times when you’re spinning the board around. Perhaps having darker backgrounds might eliminate the confusion a player might have whilst everything else is moving.
The objective of Magical Brickout is to break all of the blue bricks on each level, as these contain the fairies that the Evil Wizard has trapped. In an expansion of the original Breakout formula, there are two vial meters on the screen to add an extra element of achievement. The one on the left is an extra ball meter, where filling it up will gain you more enchanted orbs (read this as lives, essentially). The vial on the right is a score multiplier bonus, where the more bricks you hit, the more it fills. You can also get more bonus points if you hit multiple blue blocks in a row. However, if the ball rolls off the board, your multiplier will go back down to zero, and you will have to build it up again. This gets highly frustrating, but makes you even more determined to beat it!
As is with the Breakout tradition, there are also power-ups (the green blocks) which have a symbol on to indicate their effect- such as a +2x for a multiplier bonus, and a picture of a ball, which slows down the speed of the increasingly fast magical orb flying across your screen. There are also hazards (which are yellow bricks) to make the game even harder. Getting a 1/2x brick will decrease your bonus multiplier by half, whilst the picture of the ball on yellow will increase the number of balls on your screen. This all makes the levels very challenging, but much more fun. The devs have also promised to add more power-ups, hazards and bonuses as development continues.
The art style of Magical Brickout seems relatively quaint, but Cunning Force Games have still managed to keep every aspect charming. The backgrounds are well crafted, and the interface itself looks great. The fact that there several options for graphic levels will make many people very happy indeed, although a fair warning that even on the fastest setting, the game made the PC we were playing on overheat and crash- so just make sure whatever you’re playing on can cope. Another slight criticism perhaps is that the light of the fairies flying away when you hit the blue brick, as well as the fiery hazard that gives the screen a fire effect, make the ball particularly hard to see. Whilst the latter is evidently a desired obstacle to make things harder, one would doubt the former is, and could perhaps be tweaked a little so it is less distracting. The sound in the game is also lovely, with fun Irish-style music for the start screen and different elements for each of the sections in the game, such as when you complete a level. Although the sound effects can prove to be annoying on occasion, they won’t ruin gameplay.
Magical Brickout is a refreshing and imaginative change from its Atari precursor, with plenty of elements that make it a joy (and a challenge!) to play. Despite still being in Early Access, this title already feels like a full game, and has a lot of elements that really make it great. It does of course have some areas where it could work on, but this doesn’t take away from what already exists as a game that will definitely keep you entertained for days, if not weeks.