Meteos: Disney Magic Review
Normally, the goal in falling-block style puzzle games is to build up a line of blocks or a grouping of similar blocks. Take the classic, Tetris – you want a complete line of blocks with no holes and then poof, they disappear. Well, in 2005, the trend was bucked with Meteos. While blocks still fell from the sky and the game used a Bejeweled-style formula of moving around blocks in a pile to match lines of three or more Meteos, the kicker came in with how you eliminated the blocks. See, the Meteos didn’t just disappear but, based on the level, rocketed towards the top of the screen at varying speeds. Some levels required you to make a line of blocks under a mass of other blocks, then make yet another line of three Meteos to rocket them off the screen. All this while the blocks could fall at an alarming rate made for a unique and fun puzzler with an element of strategy that hadn’t really been seen before.
Enter Meteos: Disney Magic. On the surface, it may seem like a simple cashing-in on both a valuable license and a successful game. However, if you take a deeper look at the game, you’ll notice that there are quite a few changes to the successful formula of the original.
The first and probably the biggest one to former Meteos players is the change in screen orientation. Now, instead of holding the DS horizontally, you hold it vertical. This does a few things for the game, the first being that it doesn’t really feel awkward to hold the DS anymore. One issue I’ve had with a lot of stylus-centric games is that holding the DS with my left hand while I try to use the stylus can be awkward. I’ve tried positioning my hand in different ways, putting the DS on a desk and just experimented in general. With the switch to a vertical orientation, though, holding the DS feels far less awkward. Don’t worry lefties – the option from the original Meteos to switch your handedness is still in the game.
The switch to a vertical orientation also allows for bigger Meteos. It is far, far easier now to grab a Meteos to move around, reducing the amount of mistakes you may make in grabbing the wrong Meteos. This works well with another big addition to the game – the ability to slide blocks to the left and right instead of just up and down. While this does make the game easier to play in a way, it also adds a bit more strategy to the way you keep stages cleared and keeps you actively moving the stylus around instead of watching and trying to find three columns of blocks with a matching Meteos in them.
Another interesting feature is the ability to do one of two different special moves on a stage. As you play through a stage, you’ll see a meter on the left side of the screen fill up. When it reaches the max, you can use one of two special moves (that is determined by the stage you pick). The first, Nitro, rockets blocks off of the stage at a really fast speed. It won’t allow for combos to be formed very easily, but can get a lot of blocks off the stage fast. The other powerup is a slow down effect – the blocks will fall much slower and give you time to potentially identify combos sitting on the stage that you may have missed.
There is a neat feature of Meteos that happens to be missing from the Disney Magic version, though. For anyone that played the original, you may remember how the game kept track of launched Meteos and allowed you to use them as a sort of currency to fuse into new planets, items and rare materials? Well, Disney Magic doesn’t allow for this. It does keep track of your overall stats such as amount of blocks launched and blocks used as fuel, but doesn’t allow for the usage of launched blocks to “purchase” unlockables. Instead, you’ll unlock things as you progress through the games various modes. Another thing missing is the ability to speed up block falling. At the start of levels, this is necessary with the slow speed that blocks fall – I’m assuming it isn’t in because of the switch to the vertical orientation
Outside of the actual gameplay additions, Disney Magic has also changed the overall presentation of the game. No longer are you launching Meteos at aliens. Now, you’re just shooting some blocks off of the screen. While this takes away the competitive feel of the original, it doesn’t necessarily make for a bad game. Also, while Star Trip mode from the original Meteos only allowed for competitive matches versus the computer, Story Mode in Disney Magic has a combination of objectives, ranging from clearing a certain amount of a specific block to defeating an opponent. Selecting a stage in the Story mode is now a choice in what type of game you want to play as opposed to being based on planet characteristics.
A neat feature for Disney buffs and one that will go ignored by most non-Disney fans are the story panels. As you progress through each stage, the left screen will change. New characters will appear, something may happen to the characters already on the screen or various parts of the panel will animate. This is a neat little touch for the (likely) intended audience of the game, the Disney fan. Also nice are the bright colors – the game definitely has a happy vibe about it. The blocks themed around each stage (Toy Story’s level, for example, had an Army Man block, a ball block and a toybox block to name a few) and the nice Disney art on the left panel make for a game with a definite appeal to the fans of the various movies that the game’s levels are based off of.
Something that may frustrate them, though, is the music – I expected somewhat low-quality replicas of famous Disney tracks while I only got songs that sounded vaguely familiar to Disney songs with no vocals whatsoever. It’s possible to have a ton of music crammed on one of these DS carts – you can take a look at Elite Beat Agents’ 19 songs to understand this. All I can guess is that there were contract issues with using some of the songs. I just know I would have loved to hear songs like “Hakuna Matata” from The Lion King or “You’ve Got a Friend In Me” from Toy Story. Sure, the songs sounded a bit like various Disney music from the years, but they just didn’t feel right.
Also sorely lacking is any sort of online play. Sure, I could understand the original not being online, with the DS just having come out a few months before and all. But there’s no excuse for a puzzler that comes out nowadays to not have even a basic online leaderboard type of online interaction. The basic multiplayer modes are still fun, sure, but you have to have a friend nearby to play them. Hopefully, the next version of Meteos, be it Disney-branded or not, adds in the online play that fans of the series are craving.
Overall, Meteos: Disney Magic is a solid introduction to Meteos for those that missed it the first time around. For fans of the original, it’s also a solid pickup – the larger Meteos, the new orientation of the screens and the ability to slide blocks vertically and horizontally make for a different gameplay experience from the original. However, the lack of ability to fuse new “planets” (or, in this case, create new storybooks) by combining launched Meteos may kill a bit of replay value for fans of the original.
Despite the lack of authentic Disney music and the lack of any sort of online play, Meteos: Disney Magic is a worthy pickup for anyone that is looking for a new puzzler, both Disney fan and non-fan alike.