I’m forever blowing (up) bubbles

I sometimes wonder whether the games industry has some kind of collective amnesia. That’s the only thing that explains how in an age where gamers feast heartily on fast-paced action-puzzlers (Zoo Keeper, Bejeweled, Meteos, the 54-billion Tetris variants), Magical Drop has been absent from consoles since 1999.

If you’re not familiar with the game, Magical Drop is a kind of reverse Columns crossed with a smattering of Bust-a-Move, tasking you with blowing up bubbles—lots of bubbles. They appear from the top of a well, menacingly jolting downwards periodically. The object of the game is to get your strange little clown to grab bubbles and stack lines of three or more like-coloured ones, whereupon they blow up. Like any action-puzzler worth its salt, cunning positioning of exploding bubbles leads to chains, which results in positively elephantine scores and your hapless opponent’s stack descending more rapidly.

Five titles have appeared in the series to date—three in the arcade (two on Neo Geo), and two home ports in 1999: Magical Drop F for PlayStation and the rather duff Magical Drop Pocket for Game Boy Color.

For me, the third game, the imaginatively titled Magical Drop III, remains the series high-point. The graphics are crystal clear, lacking the overdone effects of the later PlayStation game. And like Magical Drop F, it has a single-player story mode, with your little avatar faced with varied wells, offering new traps and features, such as blocks that only vanish when a certain number of chains have been formed.

This being a Japanese arcade title from the 1990s, some of the characters are a little dubiously designed (such as the various Anime-styled, scantily clad girls—although one at least plays atop a flying pig), but the concept and sheer fun of playing the game shines through any suspect presentation.

According to a swift bit of online research, G-mode currently holds the rights to the series, and has even helpfully added a large ‘contact’ button under the slightly ominous ‘Serious about licensing?’ bit on the relevant page of its website (so come on, publishers—what are you waiting for?). That said, this is alongside a chef-like cartoon character that’s either showing you how to press a button or emitting tiny red lasers from his forefinger. If the latter is the case and represents G-mode’s actual staff, I guess that explains why Magical Drop PSP and Magical Drop DS have yet to appear.

Magical Drop 3 

Taking a bow when your clothes are that flimsy = not a good plan.