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DS  header logo

Magical Starsign

For: DS

We foresee future happiness

Product: Magical Starsign | Developer: Brownie Brown | Publisher: Nintendo | Format: DS | Genre: RPG | Players: 1-6 | Version: US
by Ed Fear
Magical Starsign DS, thumbnail 1
Most of us, especially us game reviewers, aren't cut out to be heroes. What would we do if our significant other was kidnapped, or our home town destroyed by a big meanie? We'd probably make a cup of tea and think of words we haven't used for a while. Like, 'dastardly villain' instead of 'big meanie'.

We obviously wouldn't be cut out for Magical Starsign, a game where someone decides they've got a reason to travel across the galaxy on a grand adventure. It sometimes takes us an hour of mental preparation to find the motivation to go to the shops for more milk.

In Magical Starsign, three months after their teacher – the super-powerful but somewhat ditzy Miss Madeline – leaves suddenly on a secret mission, a group of six young magic students decide to set off on a five planet-hopping quest to find her.

It's a quest that, inevitably, features a lot of exploring dungeons, battling monsters, solving problems, and running around towns.

Actually, 'sliding around towns' might be more appropriate. Like many DS games, the makers of Magical Starsign felt an obligation to use the touchscreen. But the result is a game where rather than intuitively tapping where you want to go, you tap in the direction you want to move, and your character continues to move in that direction until you tap in another.

As a result, for the first hour or two you'll be slipping and sliding around, feeling less like a brave hero and more like a baby duck that's yet to understand the frictional properties of ice.

Practice makes perfect though, and assuming you can struggle through, you'll soon be so used to quickly navigating the menus and giving battle orders, you'll wonder how you ever lived in a stylus-free world.

And so to those random, turn-based battles. Given that the characters are magicians, it's no surprise magic plays a much bigger part in Magical Starsign than most other role-playing games.

Each character is associated with one of five elements. Rather than elements being tied in reciprocal pairs – for example, fire being strong against ice – their strengths are determined by the celestial alignment of the planets. If the wind planet is in alignment with the wind element, say, all wind characters see their spells doubled in power.

Thankfully, in a genuinely useful utilisation of the DS' dual screens, any difficulty in grasping this system is removed by the ability to toggle helpful charts onto the topscreen. Each character also has a light or dark magic affiliation, which links into the game's 20 minute day cycle.

Another factor to deal with is the battle row system. If you position characters on the back row, they do less damage but attack enemies simultaneously. Conversely, characters on the front row target one enemy but with maximum damage. You can also increase the damage of spells (and decrease incoming damage) by tapping on your characters at just the right time.

Such considerations get you thinking and tapping, but don't completely hold off the dreaded RPG repetition of having to select the same spells again and again. Crucially though, any potential monotony doesn't get a chance to develop too much thanks to the bite-sized nature of most dungeons.

The game's narrative is equally calorie-lite. Although never boring, Magical Starsign's straightforward story could prove disappointing for those expecting Lost-esque twists. Fear not though, because, just for you, we've weaved such a twist into this review: while it may sound so far as though we don't much like Magical Starsign, really, we do. A lot.

For there's one thing this game gets absolutely, perfectly right – charm. A slow burner of a game, Magical Starsign's laid-back attitude will eventually win you over. It's almost guaranteed, assuming you conquer the 'sliding around' learning curve.

At almost every step, Magical Starsign blends physical comedy and light-heartedness into an intoxicating elixir that effectively cures many of its shortcomings. There's also a solid six-player co-operation wi-fi mode, which brings some added longevity to a game that's not enormous.

So, all-in-all, we're thankful there are heroes in the world. If there weren't, adventures as charming as Magical Starsign wouldn't exist.
Magical Starsign
Reviewer photo
Ed Fear | 9 January 2007
Greater than the sum of its parts, it's eventually hard to feel anything but sheer joy when playing Magical Starsign
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