Review – Magical Drop V

Review Magical Drop V
I find it particularly amusing that Ignition UTV saw fit to release a niche title like Magical Drop V the same week big-budget blockbuster Call of Duty: Black Ops II hit stores. But in some ways, it makes sense.

The Magical Drop series harkens back to an era when an adorable, saccharine puzzle game could happily coexist on a Neo Geo MVS cabinet alongside games with samurai warriors slashing swords in one-on-one duels, military grunts blasting everything in sight to smithereens, and brawny ballplayers swinging for the fences. And while it’s likely only a tiny slice of the total Black Ops-playing fanbase would ever consider playing Magical Drop V, I believe when it comes to the skill and dexterity needed to succeed, it is a game that is every bit as rigorous and demanding as a top-tier Black Ops session, if not more so!

Review Magical Drop V
Before we carry on any further, let’s quickly cover just what Magical Drop is all about. At first glance, the game looks like some type of Puzzle Bobble offshoot with a charming Tarot Card-themed coat of paint.

Players control a cute little character at the bottom of the screen who can move side-to-side while firing bubble-like orbs upward at rows of other orbs in an effort to make them disappear by matching at least three of the same color. The orbs will also take out any orbs on either side that they happen to be touching when a match is made. If done correctly, a whole darn mess of orbs can be wiped from existence in the blink of an eye.

The unique hook of Magical Drop is that players aren’t given any ammunition, but instead have to pull orbs down to their little avatar from the playing field above. There is no limit as to how many orbs can be collected at any given time as long as they are all the same color.

With veteran players the pace is so quick that generally the time between gathering orbs and shooting them back up is less than a second. If you watch a master Magical Drop player at work, your eyes will spin. The best players are those that can set up chains of combos, which in turn allow for them to affect their opponents’ games by sending over orbs and causing nefarious things to happen, like freezing the orbs on their foe’s playing field. It can get intense very quickly.

Review Magical Drop V
The game ends in one of two ways: Either you can’t keep up with the onslaught of dropping orbs and they reach the bottom of the screen, or your opponent clears a set number of orbs before you do. Playing against others–be it a computer-controlled character or an actual human competitor–is the meat and potatoes of Magical Drop V, and it can get frustrating to have your patootie handed to you time and time again if you’re not a competitive player. Thankfully, for those playing offline, there are at least a few difficulty options to select, but given that the game has a silky online experience, it’s difficult not to give in to the siren call of finding players to battle against through the magic of the Internet.

Magical Drop V boasts a selection of play modes to keep things interesting, all of which are essentially riffs on the main gameplay. In addition to the single-player Story Mode and the Versus Mode (both CPU and human), there are some neat twists on the formula that I found intriguing. One is a four-player competition which can make for even more of a maddening experience than one-on-one battles do. Another is a really neat co-op mode in which two players occupy the same play field, which means they have to share orbs. A total of four players can enjoy this mode, and the action is so speedy that it can become troublesome to keep up with what is happening, but that is part of the enjoyment.

Review Magical Drop V
Best of all, however, is the inclusion and integration of Ghostlop, a previously-unreleased game by Magical Drop’s original developer, Data East. Ghostlop is akin to a weird mix of Magical Drop, Puzzle Bobble, and Ikaruga. Instead of pulling orbs down toward you, your character at the bottom of the screen throws colored balls upward at an angle in an attempt to make orbs of the same hue disappear.

The Ikaruga comparison comes in by way of the fact that your balls bounce off dissimilarly colored orbs, so learning to quickly switch back and forth between the two ball colors is a must. If your ball returns back to you but you fail to catch it, the orbs drop down further. Given how quickly the game moves, this is all much more challenging than it may sound.

In a total dogs-and-cats-living-together move, Magical Drop V allows players to battle one another using the Magical Drop and Ghostlop gameplay styles at the same time. Somehow, it works. It never feels one-sided for me to play in Ghostlop mode against a Magical Drop opponent or vice-versa. Perhaps some Magical Drop purists will be put off by an entirely different game infiltrating their precious series, but I find it to be what makes Magical Drop V especially fresh. And, for what it’s worth, players can choose to ignore the Ghostlop elements of the game if they really want to.

Review Magical Drop V
Where Magical Drop falters a bit is in the presentation. It’s really bright, cheery, and sweet, but I can’t help but shake the feeling that the game’s developers were simply emulating the classic art style of the classic Magical Drop games more than anything else.

While characters animate decently and are technically well drawn, there is a nagging fanart quality to the visuals that simply rubs me the wrong way. Some of the backgrounds, in particular, look cheap and blurry, almost like they were rendered in Microsoft Paint. The music is even less appealing, with one of the tracks in particular sounding like a remix of the Saved by the Bell theme. I’m sure there was a limited budget involved in the creation of Magical Drop V, so I’m glad the effort seems to have been focused on keeping the gameplay speedy and smooth above all else.

Also, as fascinating as Ghostlop is, there isn’t a heck of a lot to Magical Drop V that players haven’t experienced before in terms of core gameplay. Granted, the online play is a godsend, and I found the co-op mode to be a hoot, but it would have been nice to have had some meatier content similar to the RPG mode found in Magical Drop F. Yes, I’m being very greedy here, and I really shouldn’t complain about the amount of value one gets with the asking price of Magical Drop V, but all the same I can imagine some longtime fans of the series will be disappointed that the game doesn’t offer much beyond a familiar arcade-like experience. People can be hardcore like that.

My minor complaints aside, Magical Drop V is a heck of a lot of fun to play, and that’s what matters most of all. The development team nailed the tight control and frantic speed that made the original games so special. The inclusion of Ghostlop is an unexpected treat, too, and that alone makes the game worth checking out for fans of the series. I just hope the game gets attention, period, because its creation was clearly carried out with a love and respect for the series that is admirable. Besides, if Magical Drop V sells well enough, perhaps we’ll even get a new entry in the Money Idol Exchanger series!

Golgoth Studio

UTV Ignition Entertainment

Windows PC

Singleplayer, Co-op, Multiplayer

Release Date
November 15, 2012


*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review

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  • Morgan Sleeper

    Wonderful review!! Magical Drop has been my favourite puzzle game for years now, and I was so excited to see a new version! Shame about the music, since that was one of the best parts of the previous games, but the 4-player mode sounds like a blast! =) I can’t wait for this to hit PSN!

  • The White Knight

    “The music is even less appealing”  ??

    The soundtrack is rich and varied, it contain many different music style to fit each character. Some musics sounds voluntarily cheap or funny, other sounds epic.
    It has nothing to do with the budget, it’s an artistic choice.