iPhone Game Review: Supermagical for iPhone/iPod Touch Review
Reviewed by Tom Slayton
Supermagical is a horizontal bubble-shooter with RPG elements. In it, you battle your way across a world map, collect Chococoins, pets, and warlocks, and attempt to defeat your seven evil sisters and their Minix horde.
Supermagical is first and foremost, a bubble-shooter. This type of game involves launching a series of colored balls (in this game, they're called Minix) at an advancing mass of similarly colored balls. When you match a group of 3 or more, those balls explode/disappear. Bubble-shooters require good aim and the ability to select the proper targets. If done correctly, destroying a small group of balls will result in larger masses falling away, similar to the way that cutting a single vine will cause an entire bunch of grapes to fall. Although participating in these battles is where you will spend 90% of your time, Supermagical is story-driven. This story will unfold as you play, and this RPG element brings a great deal of freshness to what would otherwise be very similar-feeling battles. As you progress, you will collect minions in the form of pets and warlocks, which bring special abilities into battle. You will need both of these upgrades to survive the more difficult levels. You will also collect ingredients to 4 recipes that will increase your ability to wreak damage/devastation and survive the increasing challenges.
Supermagical is a large game, with lots of polish and personality. This begs the question: how can they bring so much quality to your iOS device for just $1?" The answer, of course, is through the magic of in-app purchases (IAPs). While it is true that $1 will get you in the door, be prepared to repeatedly replay levels to earn the currency you will need to buy the upgrades you will need to survive (this is called grinding). Also be prepared to be regularly assaulted with generous offers to sell you additional currency; especially when you hit the paywall and can't seem to win. It is important at this point to draw a clear distinction between the excellent game design and its abhorrent business model; a model that seems to be plaguing so many iOS games these days. I can almost hear the programmers, artists, and game designers awkwardly apologizing for what the corporate clones did to their otherwise perfect game. Because the game itself is so enjoyable, I decided to break from my normal position on consumable IAPs (never purchase) and spent what I thought the game was worth: $3.99. Once I did, I quickly found the gameplay sliding back into balance, and I continued my quest. $3.99 worth of Chococoins will not get you anywhere near what you need to buy everything. I was able to purchase pets as they came available, one hat (several are available), and all of the reagents I needed for my spells (so long as I was willing to hunt them down individually as the complete reagent kits were far too expensive). I found this to be just about perfect.
Making tough upgrade choices is an essential component of RPGs, as is grinding to be overpowered or for special rewards. It should never be required in order to complete a game, however, and when it is you can bet that it's either a design error or a blatant money grab. There are also various games of chance available to further liberate the compulsive personalities from their checkbooks. My advice is to never purchase one of Manuel's pinatas or to pay extra to play any of his matching games a second time. Those are sucker's bets, and the house will take your money when you do. Supermagical supports Game Center achievements, however, most of them are related to your willingness to purchase upgrades and buy IAPs. This further gave me the feeling that Gala Pocket, Inc. was doing everything it could to turn me upside-down and shake me by my ankles. Ultimately, I found my single IAP to be sufficient to completely enjoy the game, and I learned to ignore the nags to buy additional IAPs. I'm still disheartened, however, by the fact that, with this business model, I can never restart the game for another playthrough or install it on another device without investing in another round of IAPs. At the time of this writing, Supermagical features only a story mode. However, future updates have been promised, which will include a versus mode as well as a 2-player cooperative mode.
The graphics of Supermagical are first-rate. Colorful, lots of personality, cleverly animated, and high resolution (the game looks great on the new iPad). The characters have a distinctly anime' flavor to them, and are slightly reminiscent of the Pokemon universe.
Like the graphics, the music and sound effects of Supermagical are top-notch, and bring a lot of energy to the game.
In-App Purchases (IAPs)
The presence of nagging and necessary IAPs is Supermagical's only flaw. If you have the patience, grind away; you'll need to in order to complete the game. If you can afford it, a small purchase of Chococoins (currency) will allow you to play the game is it was most likely intended. Unfortunately, this will also encourage publishers to continue with this unfortunate business model so choose wisely.
Supermagical is a near perfect game, made imperfect by an aggressive and greedy business model. If you have the patience, you can play it through for the low, low entry price of $1. If you don't have the patience to repeatedly replay the same levels over and over again, expect to drop a few dollars on the in-game currency; and expect to do it on every device you own, every time you want to start a new adventure.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 5 - Vibrant and charming graphics give this game loads of personality. Sound: - 5 - High quality sound effects and music will round out your sensory experience. Controls: - 4.5 - An unconventional aiming mechanic, but an otherwise great interface. Gameplay: - 3 - The gameplay deserves a 5, but the IAPs deserve a 1. I'm giving it a 3.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Don't spend Chococoins on pinatas or any of Manuel's tokens. Those are games of chance, and the odds are not in your favor. Be sure to select the proper pet and warlock to accompany you into battle as different battles will call for different abilities. Each time you conquer a new area, be sure to search the surrounding map for tiny little bags of Chococoins.