Publisher: ARC System Works
Developer: ARC System Works
Normally a puzzle game won't grab my attention unless it's based on some musical hook. Magical Beat falls happily under this umbrella, as a match-three vertical puzzle game, with the twist being that dropping blocks is tied to the beat itself. This formula sounds like it could be hit-or-miss, as most puzzle games are reliant on the pace a player chooses, along with the dreaded necessary evil of what the soundtrack will be like. Three's really nothing worse than a music game with bad music.
Luckily for Magical Beat, it hits its mark on these essentials, with some great little tunes to capitalize on a risky set of mechanics. The match-three element, being a relatively simple puzzle genre, holds a lot water when paired with the fact that you'll be dropping blocks to the tempo of a song. A meter sitting in the center of the screen will indicate ideal timing for dropping blocks, with BPM changing between levels. This works great, although some may find the rhythmically-dictated gameplay to be intrusive, so feel free to pass on this if you're the impatient type, or, alternatively, not great with music games.
While the game keeps things fresh with a different tempo per song, the gameplay will otherwise remain unchanged. Magical Beat may not be a retail-priced game, but it's a wasteland for variety in gameplay. The inclusion of some typical extra modes would have helped maintain the appeal of a game with no more than single-player in three difficulty levels, local multiplayer, and a playlist mode. I'm not really sure what the staying power is in Magical beat, past re-playing single-player and waiting until you run into someone else with a Vita and a copy of the game on them.
Then again, maybe you just want to play a puzzle game that syncs to BlazBlue and Guilty Gear songs.
The mechanics are, as mentioned, otherwise solid, although they may not be very deep. Missing a beat penalizes players with a separation of their brick into randomized placement of its three little blocks, which maintains momentum without punishing a lack of precision too fiercely. In regards to something more substantial, a mode based around playing the full duration of a song would have balanced the nature of tracks being capable of completion before the song is halfway through.
For a $10 game, Magical Beat is a safe bet for anyone who thinks they'd like a little twist on the straightforward match-three standard. Doubly so, if that person likes music. It's not something, however, which you'll find yourself committing to for any reason other than to enjoy the lightweight gameplay and ankle-deep modes of play. Maybe we'll see something more substantial in a rhythm-based fighter or something. Think of this as a vacation to typical puzzle games, as it won't take long for you to be ready to return home.