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DS  header logo

Meteos: Disney Magic

For: DS

Not doing it for the kids

Product: Meteos: Disney Magic | Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios | Format: DS | Genre: Film/ TV tie- in, Puzzle | Players: 1-4 | Networking: wireless (adhoc) | Version: US
Meteos: Disney Magic DS, thumbnail 1
When it comes to PR, only the obvious stories get told. Take the Disney Corporation, for example. Walt got the attention, but it was little-known brother Roy who held the Magic Kingdom together. Sure Walt could draw, but it was Roy who balanced the books.

When it comes to Meteos: Disney Magic, the similar split in roles can't be hidden. Japanese studio Q Entertainment has provided the creativity, albeit recycled from its 2005 DS game Meteos, while Disney's marketeers have tried to add some new shine thanks to the inclusion of visuals based on licences such as The Lion King, Toy Story and The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Yet the result is more than a straight reworking of the original 'Tetris in space' Meteos game with some kid-friendly graphics. In order to widen the appeal – and, presumably, the result of hours of focus testing – Meteos: Disney Magic brings a new horizontal dimension to the game's core mechanic of manipulating coloured blocks.

A quick recap. In Meteos, you had to create lines of at least three blocks of the same colour by moving the blocks up and down columns with your stylus. Once lined up, they turned into rockets and blasted into space, taking the blocks on top of them into orbit, assuming they had enough force. If not, everything drifted down, requiring additional combos to be built within or beneath them. Playing the game on a range of planets with different levels of gravity provided the variation.

In this Disney edition of Meteos however, you can move blocks horizontally as well as vertically to create the requisite three-strong rocket blocks. You also get to hold your DS like a book (where you can choose left or right-handiness). The book theme continues in-game, with Jiminy Cricket and Tinker Bell leading you though stages where you have to 'organise' the disarray found on Disney's bookshelves.

Subtly, this switch in the game's aspect ratio also means the blocks are bigger than in Meteos, something that's required because of the more detailed Disney-based symbols you need to match. These symbols are different for each of the eight licences, with Winnie the Pooh involving the likes of pots of honey and heffalumps, while Pirates of the Caribbean has skulls and bottles of grog.

There are also three special blocks that drop down from the sky. The star wildcard block can be used as a substitute for any other block to create a line of three. The rocket block can be used to launch it and the blocks either side of it into orbit, no manner what symbols they are. Finally, the replacement block will change all the blocks of one symbol to another symbol. Each block is used by double tapping with your stylus.

But it's the addition of the horizontal move that's fundamental, as it makes the game much simpler to handle. Indeed, it arguably makes the core mechanic much too simple.

In the original, your attention was focused up-and-down as you waited for the required colours to drop. Meteos was a game of famine – generally you didn't have the resources you wanted. In contrast, Meteos: Disney Magic is a game of excess. Most of the time there are far too many potential moves on offer, so failure is usually due to information overload rather than making one wrong move.

Of course, considering the average age of the target audience for the game has dropped ten years with the involvement of Disney, it's dangerous to get overly-critical about the dilution of the original concept, particularly when it wasn't all that successful in the first place. The colourful presentation and easy learning curve should make the game a hit with an age group that hasn't been well-served by the abstract nature of many current puzzle games. So making the game easier makes sense.

Yet seen in that child-friendly context, the perplexing thing is how difficult Meteos: Disney Magic's main Story mode is. Players of any age will successfully tackle the Easy option, which involves beating just four themed-stages, each of which has a different objective such as launch 100 blocks or stay alive for two minutes.

But in comparison, the normal mode quickly become tricky, despite the fact it offers you a multiple-branched progression where you can choose to progress down a slightly easier or slightly tougher route. As for the much longer Hard and Expert modes, they are well-named, and will likely be much too frustrating for many younger players.

There are other modes and extras on offer. As well as the Story mode, the single player game has a Challenge mode with Time Attack, Endless and Score Attack options, and a CPU-Versus mode. There's also game sharing and game cart four-way multiplayer modes, an excellent tutorial, and a bonuses section where you can peruse the graphics and sounds you've unlocked (although it should be pointed out that the audio is pretty unappealing to our ears).

But the fact is that Meteos: Disney Magic is both easier and harder than the game it's based on, despite being retuned for children. Design and implementation, just like creativity and organisation, need to work together for success. In this case, neither Walt nor Roy would be overly impressed.
Meteos: Disney Magic
Reviewer photo
Jon Jordan | 16 April 2007
Good graphical presentation and easier core gameplay makes Meteos: Disney Magic a kid-friendly puzzle game, but the spiky learning curve proves frustrating
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