IGN Review of Meteos: Disney Magic
So get this: Disney has the gall to take what's considered a classic Nintendo DS puzzle game and slap its characters all over it. Oh, and let's not forget change up the way you play the game by tipping the system on its side and giving players the ability to slide tiles left and right! The nerve, right? Actually, even though the game's not much more than a tweaked and reskinned version of the addictive game that hit the DS back in its early days, Disney and Q Entertainment didn't muck things up. There's a license and a shift in mechanics now, but everything is still fun and challenging, and it gives a broader audience the opportunity to play something that was enjoyed by the early DS adopters.
The original Meteos design, released back in 2005, is a unique touch-screen focused puzzle game that challenged players to slide falling tiles vertically in order to match up three or more like-colored tiles. Unlike games such as Tetris and Puyo Pop where matching tiles causes them to disappear, in Meteos matched tiles become rocket boosters which launch upwards. The idea is to push stacks of tiles out of play to clear them out of the bin. Each area of the game had its own gravity which had the power to make tiles lighter or heavier, which made them easier or more difficult to launch them out of play. It's no wonder that the designers of the original game surrounded the idea around a science fiction theme of various alien planets and races.
But when Disney got its hands on the rights, the company gave the aliens the boot and put Mickey, Cinderella, The Lion King, and a handful of other characters in their place. The game tries to put everything in context with stories that try to explain why players need to match up and launch titles, but let's be real -- the aliens were cooler. Disney characters are just a way to get more people to buy it through the power of a recognizable, universally loved license.
With the Disney version, Q Entertainment also shifted things around by enabling the Nintendo DS system's vertical orientation. By turning the system on its side, the playing field is now taller than it is wide. Even though the illusion of launching tiles up into the second display is ruined by having the two screens side by side, ultimately the shift in orientation was a really good decision because the Meteos design benefits more from a tall screen than a wide one. However, in this move, the designers don't put anything really useful on the other screen. It's wasted screen real estate, used only for animations of Disney characters that change based on the player's progress. It's useless because Meteos is such an intense and fast-paced action puzzler that most people will simply ignore the animation. No wonder the designers unlock these animations outside of the game -- it's the only time you'd ever get to watch them.
The biggest, boldest move for Meteos: Disney Magic is the addition of horizontal motion. In the original Meteos you could only slide tiles up and down within the same stack. In this follow-up, you now have the ability to slide any tile left or right as well as up and down. Meteos purists will probably shun this tactic since it might make things easier. Yes, it's now much easier to link tiles together, but it doesn't necessarily make the game all that much easier -- Meteos's single player design is about completing a set goal within a time limit, and these quotas have been established with the new horizontal movement in mind. Though practiced Meteos champs will breeze through Easy and Normal difficulty trees, the "Hard" options will definitely throw some touch challenges at the player. And even if you manage to clear that, there's always the "Expert" mode which removes horizontal movements from play. So if you really want the true Meteos experience, it's still here. You'll just have to prove yourself worthy and unlock the mode.
Admittedly, the game requires a bit too much out of the player to unlock "expert" mode. More than seven hours of play was put into Meteos: Disney Magic for this review, and the option still isn't unlocked in the cart. Even after blowing through all of the levels in easy and normal, and managing to beat the hard track a handful of times, as of this writing it still remains in the list all locked up. It's taunting us.
Even though Meteos: Disney Magic still retains the energy and fun of the classic Meteos, it's hard to ignore the fact that there's an obvious missed opportunity here. Not only did the original game have a great single player challenge, but it also offered up some truly intense multiplayer battles. All that's still intact in this follow-up, so you can still fight four player competitions with a single cartridge. But the lack of online play is rather disappointing. Meteos purists will no doubt shun the Disney follow-up because of its changes, but had Disney and Q Entertainment put in Nintendo Wi-Fi support, it would have given even Disney-hating elitists a reason to double-dip for this version of Meteos.
©2007, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved