Magical Drop V is the latest in a sprawling line of me-too puzzlers that have jumped on the bandwagon over the years. Strangely enough, it's an actual attempt at revival that seems to have come out of nowhere. Magical Drop made quite the splash back in the 90s with its debut on the Neo Geo, and for the better part of that decade made a name for itself as one of the greatest puzzle games you could get your hands on. It's been duplicated and imitated many times over, however, and the type of challenge it provides is now something you can find on nearly any platform.
To see Data East's classic puzzler reinvigorated for a fifth game is bizarre, especially considering the decision to have released it via Steam. It's more of the same puzzle action you enjoyed if you've followed the series from its inception, but it in no way is the reboot or new injection of personality what the franchise needed to catapult it back to the forefront of our minds. In fact, it's pretty much the exact same game you've seen over and over again, with brand new packaging.
It's extremely simple to get into. You're stepping into the colorful shoes of an adorable jester who's juggling colorful spheres into the air in order to make matches with multiple colors. The spheres advance as you clear them out with strategic juggling before too many of them rain down upon you to force a Game Over, Tetris-style. Obviously you should try to aim for massive combos rather than clearing out one or two spheres from the play area, but those familiar with Bust-A-Move or previous Magical Drop games will know it doesn't matter how you reach a clear board as long as you do so in order to get to the next level.
It sounds deceptively simple, but there's a good bit of challenge to be found within, especially when advancing lines of spheres encroach upon you in a much speedier fashion. If you haven't been picking out the subtle patterns of the spawning spheres and crafting your own personal strategy, it's unlikely you'll be successful. And that's all well and good, but the game doesn't bother to introduce any new puzzle mechanics or challenges to keep you engaged across the twelve stages that encompass Story Mode.
In fact, there's barely any new content aside from a bizarre additional character named Bruce, siphoned in from a scrapped Data East title known as Ghostlop. Bruce's play style completely alters the game boards, allowing players to clear out colored spheres that match the one previously launched at the beginning of each turn. It's quite bizarre that such a character with these particular abilities would be allowed to be used in normal play, but Bruce's enhancements give the game a little oomph where it severely needs it, as it's unfortunately dull in most other areas. And that's not even counting its technical blunders.
Magical Drop V sports one of the shoddiest translation jobs seen in quite some time. Spelling errors, fragmented sentences, and outright horrible dialogue like this should never be allowed in a finished product. It's shocking that the game was greenlit for release when packed with such glaring mistakes. Additionally, it crashes at random –a grand total of five times during an initial two-hour playthrough—with graphical glitches and bizarre lock-ups when attempting to change settings from the menu. Its apparent patches have been in the works and applied for quite some time now, but when the game itself as well as its multiplayer modes (you either get Story or Multiplayer to choose from -- sorry!) is so ridiculously dull and unpolished, it's hard to get excited about the fixes that shouldn't have even been required.
There are a glut of puzzlers, free and otherwise, available via Steam and the many outlets open to gamers, so it's vexing that anyone should choose this release over the original Magical Drop (easily downloadable via PSN) or even another competent game when this one feels more like an unfinished pet project by non-English speakers who can't quite grasp the content of complete sentences or unintelligible garbage masquerading as a story. The fifth time around, a game should have had plenty of time to build and improve upon its mistakes in the past, and Magical Drop V simply doesn't cut it. Pick up another puzzler if you're looking to scratch that itch.