Version tested: DS
This unlikely alliance between the biggest creators of family entertainment and the most notable creator of apparently drug-addled videogames turns the original Meteos on its head. By which I mean, you have to hold your DS vertically, like a book (or a brain training game) to play it. Apart from that, and a handful of other differences, this is the original Meteos that you know and love, wrapped up with artwork and characters from various Disney films that you know and love. Which is a lot of love.
The basic game design is pretty much intact since the original Meteos: you use your stylus to switch blocks around to create rows or columns of three or more matching icons which then fire up the screen. At that point, gravity takes over and the blocks will either shoot off the top of the screen, or drop back down, requiring you to create new match-ups to give them another boost. The principal difference between this and the original Meteos is, obviously, the fact that the game is now themed around some of Disney's classic movies and characters. Instead of a vague sci-fi plot, Disney Magic sees you clearing up the Disney library with a magic wand given to you by Jiminy Cricket and Tinkerbell. It turns out that someone's messed up all the Disney Stories, and you have to 'go into the storybooks and help fix the stories', so the world's families can enjoy their entertainment the way they were supposed to.
Those stories include Toy Story, The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, Mickey Mouse, Winnie the Pooh, Lilo & Stitch and The Lion King, and you fix them by undertaking a series of challenges. So unlike the original, in which the story mode was a series of head-to-head competitions against AI opponents, Disney Magic only sometimes sees you competing with an opponent. The rest of the time you'll be firing a certain amount of boxes off the screen, or certain types of boxes off the screen, or surviving for a certain amount of time, or whatever. And while you do that, the second screen displays various different Disney images. Obviously you'll be too focused on flicking blocks to look at it while you're playing, so it's a bit annoying that some challenges require you to keep an eye on the second screen to work out which blocks you need to eliminate. In any case you can check out the artwork at your leisure in the Story Viewer mode after you've unlocked it.
And because you hold your DS like a book, the blocks are bigger and easier to hit with your wand (and you need to hold down the d-pad to accelerate their descent, instead of one of the triggers). But that's not the only change that Disney Magic makes to the original Meteos. Another one is that when a special gauge fills up you can use one of three special abilities, depending on what story you're trying to fix. There's Nitro Boost, which accelerates your blocks after you launch them; Slow Mode, which slows their descent; and Horizontal Block Movement, which, allows you to switch blocks horizontally in Expert difficulty. And only in Expert difficulty, because in Easy, Normal, and Hard difficulty levels you're free to switch blocks horizontally whenever you like.
Meteos purists might be up at arms at this point, in the belief that diluting the difficulty in this way is a feeble concession to the demands of Disneyfied kiddie gaming. Actually, though, it doesn't have that dramatic an impact on the game's difficulty at all; it just fixes one of the frustrating facets of the original. Indeed it'll probably only be Meteos purists who find the patience to unlock the Expert difficulty, because, although the game certainly starts off easy enough, the challenge ramps up considerably by the time you get to the further reaches of Hard.
One criticism is perhaps that some of the Disney icons are difficult to distinguish. Another is that the unlockables aren't marshalled into such a sophisticated structure as in the original. But apart from those minor gripes, Disney Magic is every bit as good as the original. Indeed in many ways it's better: the horizontal switching is a welcome addition, and the game is less susceptible to scrubbing. So scores lawyers are probably looking at the number below and wondering why it's smaller than the one Tom gave to the original Meteos. And that's basically because the appeal of Meteos doesn't seem to have endured quite as much as, for example, Lumines. So for people who only speak in numbers, here it is again, in English: Disney Magic is just as brilliant as the original Meteos, if not better.
8 / 10