Monday 31 August 2020

Magical Drop Pocket (Neo Geo Pocket Color review)

Developer: Sakata SAS
Publisher: Data East, SNK
Released: 1999

Magical Drop Pocket is a puzzle game that's based on Magical Drop III (1997, Arcade).

The objective is to align three drops (a.k.a. balls) of the same colour to remove them, while making sure that the rows don't crush you as they fall. The A button catches drops, while B releases them, and the modes are Story (1-player vs. the CPU with eight characters), Self Challenge (1-player endurance) and Friend Challenge (2-player battle using the Link Cable). Creating a series of chain effects is hugely satisfying and this idea cleverly gets you thinking two steps ahead by organising colours strategically rather than focusing on singular drop links. Likewise, the Special Drops (that remove all drops of the same colour) are a terrific inclusion as they encourage you to quickly link together further chains while the rows temporarily stop falling. I also like how you can collect an unlimited amount of the same coloured drops at once to free up space and form vast explosions, and the gradual addition of new drop types (e.g. Bubble Drops that only exist to get in your way!) force you to switch up your typical attack methods. The action is frenetic and you'll need to work fast and efficiently to succeed; in this sense it's not a particularly relaxing puzzle game, but one where you're constantly on the edge of success or failure at a moment's notice. There are some issues with the controls though, as analog stick pushes can be slightly delayed (compared to the precision of a d-pad), often leaving you in harms way. Also, while the individual character plots are great for replayability, everything is nonsensical (possibly due to poor translation) and there's nothing to signify that you've beaten a certain character's story.

Magical Drop Pocket is an enjoyable puzzler with plenty of advanced moves and attack methods for those who wish to learn them. Some might be put off by the steep difficulty curve, but there's plenty to love once you get the hang of it and the multiple character plots in Story mode is a neat feature to keep you playing.

Random trivia: Another handheld port (simply titled Magical Drop) was released on the Game Boy Color in 2000.

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