Meteos: Disney Magic
Something’s gone wrong in the realm of Disney. Cinderella is about to miss her fateful meeting with Prince Charming, left to do countless chores instead of living happily ever after. The crew from Toy Story have been doomed live the rest of their surreal lives in cardboard boxes. Winnie the Pooh’s latest honey binge has resulted in him getting mauled by swarm of angry bees. Simba is too wimpy to smite evil and fulfill his destiny as the Lion King. The Pirates of the Caribbean…Well, they’re still overrated. Meanwhile, millions of kids (and nostalgia-ridden adults) around the world are lamenting their ruined childhoods. Armed with little more than your trusty stylus, you must save several Disney characters from damnation and help reclaim their lost glory.
But if you’ve been praying that this plot is for some kind of DS version of Kingdom Hearts, you’re in for a rude awakening. Meteos: Disney Magic resurrects one the DS’s greatest puzzle games with a whole new style. Instead of platforming around themed levels or ripping through legions of baddies, you’ll get to help the Disney characters by moving some falling blocks around the DS’s Touch Screen. If you drag three blocks of the same type (conveniently portrayed by different colors and designs based on characters’ faces) together, they’ll burst into flame and launch into the stratosphere. Apparently, such pyrotechnics help the characters return to their usual selves and restore order. But since the screen is constantly barraged by an ever-increasing amount of blocks, you’ll need a good eye and some quick moves to win the day.
That’s assuming, of course, that you can deal with everything else going on. Each level has its own level of gravity and requirements for a successful launch. While some areas allow the blocks to slowly drift around midair, others will force them to plummet hard onto the bottom of the screen. The speed and intensity of the falling can also vary widely. Some levels may force you to create two or three explosions to get the blocks moving anywhere, while others let your targets careen away in a blaze of glory. In order to balance out the challenge, the game allows you to use different items and powers; while slowing down time allows for more block matching, a handy nitro boost can send even the heaviest payload zooming for the sky. The trick is using all of these elements to your advantage to gain the greatest score possible.
While veterans of the original Meteos will recognize the basic gameplay mechanics, Disney Magic has a few surprises of its own. Since you’ll be focused on the Touch Screen during the action, the game has been designed to maximize its use by making you hold the DS sideways a la Brain Age and Planet Puzzle League. While the control setup can be a problem for younger gamers (aka the game’s target audience), it allows you to use the screen more effectively. You’ll need it, too; Disney Magic has slightly tweaked the gameplay to fix a game-breaking flaw from the first game. Originally, all you had to do was mindlessly scribble up and down to match up blocks. Now, you’ll be able to move the blocks both vertically and horizontally, allowing for a greater need for keen observation and precision use of the stylus.
Not everything has been changed, though. Disney Magic retains several of the features of the original Meteos. If you don’t feel like playing through the branching Story Mode on its multiple difficulties, you can tackle the Challenge Mode to test your speed and skill based on different objectives. For those with a more competitive streak, the game allows you to go mano-a-mechanized mano with a surprisingly skilled CPU opponent. But if you prefer your foes human, the multiplayer can be downloaded wirelessly to multiple handhelds, allowing for up to four players to slug it out in frenzied matches. While such features don’t make up for the plethora of extras and bonuses from the original game, they’re still good enough to keep you playing long after you’ve conquered the main game.
Gameplay modes aside, the only incentive to keep playing Disney Magic is the amount of unlockable cutscenes. Each level is crafted after a different movie; fans will recognize areas from Lilo & Stitch, The Little Mermaid, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and a handful of other popular titles. As you’re desperately rubbing and tapping the Touch Screen, the other screen will depict the Disney characters that you’re trying to save. Woody and the gang will crawl out of their cardboard cages and cheer you on. After you’ve scored enough points in the Lion King, Simba and his pals will oust their enemies and lounge around the savannah. Even Jack Skellington, fake Santa beard and all, will appreciate your help. Sadly, none of these images are particularly impressive; instead of retaining some semblance of their stellar movie animations, they’re presented in watered-down cartoon designs. Considering what the DS is capable of graphically, the presentation is lackluster at best.
That won’t stop you from enjoying the game though. The minds behind this game took what was arguably the best puzzle game on the DS, modified it to fit with a Disney theme, and managed to not screw it up. In fact, they improved upon it. By implementing a greater range of movement, the gameplay is no longer reduced to a bunch of inane scribbling. Disney Magic boasts all of the fast-paced and challenging gameplay of the original, but lacks its sheer amount of unlockable content. Considering the stylish sci-fi motif of the first Meteos, seasoned gamers may be turned off by the bright graphics and overly kiddy-centric presentation. But hey, it’s Disney. You can’t help but love them.
Eight out of ten
- The challenging gameplay of the original Meteos remains intact
- Improved movement options saves the gameplay from being broken
- Not as much unlockable content
- Childish presentation may turn off older gamers