If you keep up with the DS import scene, you might recall Nintendo releasing a puzzle game about nine months ago called Magnetica. Well, this is the same game under a different name - more in line with Mitchell's original PuzzLoop arcade game from 1998. Of course, if you've frequented the Xbox Live Arcade, you'll probably take one look at Actionloop and assume that this is a rip-off of PopCap's Zuma, but this is the real deal.
The gem-busting premise is largely the same as ever (i.e. heavily influenced by Bust-A-Move), but with a few interesting tweaks that, arguably, make the DS the best version of this hugely addictive puzzler. As ever, the idea is to make sure a spiralling line (or lines) of coloured gemstones doesn't reach the hole it's snaking toward. To do this, you have to continually flick gemstones from one or more launch pad(s) at the spiralling menace coming towards you - with three of a kind required to eliminate them.
The trick is to not only be quick and accurate, but to take advantage of The Rules of Attraction. If, for example, you match three reds and there are two yellow gems on either side, they will be attracted to one another, ensuring the line is dragged back a notch - helping to give you vital breathing space as you busily flick gems towards their target.
The ideal puzzle game is deceptively simple, increasingly involving, and balances high pressure with moments of calm. Magnetica fails at every single element, but remains reasonably interesting.
The main problem seems to be its expecting a little too much of you too quickly, without offering anything new. This may sound an odd complaint when living in a soup of games that think you a pre-school buffoon - the gaming equivalents of the inflatable gutters at a bowling alley - but occasionally the right answer is at least the illusion of simplicity. The game's premise is yet another interpretation of the puzzling staple: eliminating things once there are three of them. Indeed, it's the reclaiming of the specific formula 'borrowed' more recently by Zuma. In this case: coloured marbles, rolling around tracks toward a 'reactor'. You have to fire matching marbles at them, creating clumps of three, such that they disappear and don't reach the end of the line. And then, you know, variants on that.
Pleasingly, Magnetica makes decent use of the stylus. Marbles emerge from a central hub, and are fired at the track of balls by flinging it in whichever direction. The faster you flick, the more quickly it travels. That's the way a stylus should be used. Bravo. It's vital that the interaction be this intuitive, as the speed with which you have to respond is paramount.