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Meteos: Disney Magic (DS) artwork

Meteos: Disney Magic (DS) review

"There are familiar films like “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “The Little Mermaid,” but “Aladdin” and “Beauty and the Beast” and many others don’t make an appearance at all. At least those characters who do show up are represented well. You get neat little pseudo-animations, like Mulan riding a surfboard with Stitch or the fairy godmother getting ready to cast a spell."

The story books in Disneyland have taken a tumble and now the plots are all messed up. You’re the only one who can save the day, and you’ll do it by playing Meteos. That’s the idea behind Meteos: Disney Magic, and it does sound a little stupid on paper. There’s good news, though: it’s actually a good game!

If you’ve played Meteos, you have a decent idea what to expect. The gameplay hasn’t really changed, except that the blocks look like objects from Disney features and you now hold the DS on its side, like a book. This gives the game a comfortable style and there’s plenty of room to move blocks around, which is precisely what you do.

The objectives in Disney Magic vary from one stage to another, but never stray far from the basic principle of the original Meteos. You start with a black space, like in Tetris. As blocks fall, your job is to line them up in rows of three blocks or more. If you’re clever, you can get as many as five. Once the blocks are lined up, they’ll launch skyward. To survive a stage, you have to keep the blocks from stacking their way up to the top of the screen.

Lining up blocks is only the beginning. Once you send blocks upward, they’ll generally only go partway up the screen before they start drifting back down. You then keep them airborne by launching more blocks from the ground, or by quickly rearranging your floating rubbish heap so that you form another combo and give it yet another boost toward the sky. Once you’ve sent them high enough, they’ll disappear and you get points. More chunks of debris are always on their way, though, and they keep coming faster and faster the longer you play a level.

As time goes on, you can also gain access to power-ups. These allow you to slow the descent of the falling blocks, or increase the gusto with which you hurl them into the stratosphere. The latter is definitely useful, though the former doesn’t come in handy until the later stages, by which point there are often time restrictions that will ruin your day if you put it to use. Both upgrades also have a significant impact on your score, so most players will eventually work through the game without even using them.

So, that’s the basic rundown of the game. The only elements left to examine are the presentation and play control.

As you might expect from the DS, the blocks are manipulated with the stylus. The original Meteos was criticized because just scribbling on the screen sometimes proved as effective as any careful strategy. That’s not the case here, at least not to the same degree. You’ll constantly need to tap different blocks and move them carefully, or you could ruin the excellent combo you almost had going. In fact, that’s one complaint I have about the game: sometimes the precision required is difficult to muster during a fast-paced round. Many a time, I’ve known just what I wanted to do, but accidentally grabbed the wrong block from the falling pile. That happens regularly throughout each stage, particularly when you’re just starting out. In later stages, where each minor error is costly, things get downright exasperating.

The intense puzzle action in some ways feels at odds with the cute presentation. While you’re lining up combos on the right screen, Scar might be snarling menacingly at the head of a pack of hyenas on the left screen. There are nice little animations from each Disney film represented, though it seemed to me that a little more variety wouldn’t have hurt. There are familiar films like “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “The Little Mermaid,” but “Aladdin” and “Beauty and the Beast” and many others don’t make an appearance at all. At least those characters who do show up are represented well. You get neat little pseudo-animations, like Mulan riding a surfboard with Stitch or the fairy godmother getting ready to cast a spell.

To be honest, though, you’ll probably not pay much heed to the presentation. Whether you’re launching plates or seashells, the gameplay doesn’t change. You just view it with different skins in place. The only significant change comes from the level objectives, which vary slightly. In one stage, you might be asked to launch 600 blocks, while in another you simply have to survive the onslaught of falling blocks for a period of two or three minutes. My least favorite objective is the one where the game asks you to launch a set number of specific blocks within a short period of time. On the easier difficulty levels, there’s no trouble, but the later stages just never seem to give you enough of the specific blocks required. It’s frustrating enough that the little kids the game was theoretically designed for will probably just stick to the easier areas. Thankfully, the ‘normal’ level feels about right, and you can also opt to play a marathon game instead of the Story Mode (which loses its charm once you’ve gained the medals and unlocked the available skins).

Ultimately, Meteos: Disney Magic is no more and no less than what the title implies. It has charming presentation and the game that lies underneath isn’t any less enjoyable because of it. Though it seems a little bit lighter on the Disney magic than one might have hoped for, the experience underneath is hefty enough that most won’t mind. Whether you’re buying it for kids or yourself, this is one game you’ll definitely want to have in your DS collection.

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Staff review by Jason Venter (March 01, 2007)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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