Magical Ride review

Magical Ride is a Facebook game from Pretty Simple Games. The game has been around since September of this year, but showed up at the end of last week as the No. 1 emerging Facebook game thanks to a gain of 50,000 monthly active users.

Magical Ride casts players in the role of a young witch competing against her magically-inclined peers (and Facebook friends) in a weekly broomstick-flying tournament. The basic gameplay is almost identical to Halfbrick’s popular mobile and social title Jetpack Joyride: the controls consist of a single button that causes the witch to fly up when pressed, and to fall down to the ground due to gravity when released. There is a much stronger “inertia” factor than in Jetpack Joyride, however, making the witch feel significantly “heavier” and thus giving the game a different — though not necessarily better — feeling than Halfbrick’s well-regarded title.

Like its inspiration, Magical Ride is effectively an “endless running” game in which players must get as far as they possibly can without colliding with any obstacles. The obstacles in question are also clearly heavily inspired by Jetpack Joyride — the basic hazards are floating electrical barriers, and occasionally the player is beset with missile onslaughts that are preceded by warning markers at the side of the screen. There are a few variations, however — rather than a single type of projectiles as in Jetpack Joyride, there are several different types of incoming missiles in Magical Ride. Some are large and slow, others are small and quick; others still are long and straight.

The other main change to Jetpack Joyride’s formula is the addition of a level-based progression mechanic. Upon completing a single run, the player is rewarded with experience points, and every so often increases in level. Leveling up seems to have relatively little effect until the player reaches level 10, at which point they unlock the ability to start spending the coins they collect on every run on various “boosters” to improve their score and potentially make the game easier. The game’s two currencies form the backbone of its monetization — soft currency collected during play is spent on booster items, while hard currency is spent on refilling lives (one of which is spent on every run, and which are not restored on level up) and “resurrecting” after a failed run. It could be argued that the latter option is something of a “pay to win” facility that makes the competitive element of the game a little less meaningful — in theory, paying to resurrect puts a significant advantage in front of paying players, but they still need to have the skills to get far enough to beat the top player’s score.

Magical Ride is a decent take on the Jetpack Joyride formula, but a few aspects of it make it an inferior experience to Halfbrick’s game. Firstly, the play-throttling lives mechanic is a little at odds with the “just one more go” addictive nature of the game. Of course, it could be argued that adding a lives mechanic to an already addictive game is an excellent means of monetization, but it’s not very friendly to the player. The addition of a couple of mechanics — perhaps refilling the lives stock on level up, or allowing the player to earn extra lives through play — would make it more palatable, but it would be much more player-friendly to simply remove this mechanic altogether and focus on alternative avenues of monetization.

The second problem is that these potential alternative avenues of monetization — spending earned in-game currency on booster items — doesn’t unlock until level 10, and reaching that requires the player to return to the game on several separate occasions — or paying for lives. If a player gets frustrated by the lives system throttling their play session and doesn’t return, that means that a significant amount of game content — and potential income for the developer — is left unseen and unused.

It remains to be seen whether players will stick with Magical Ride long enough to discover this content and spend money on the game. At present, the pacing feels very off, but it will be impossible to tell whether or not this bothers players enough to stop them from playing until a few weeks have passed.

Magical Ride currently has 100,000 monthly active users, 60,000 weekly active users and 20,000 daily active users. Follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for social games and developers.

Wait

A good take on the Jetpack Joyride formula, but poor pace of progression and a frustrating “lives” mechanic may put players off before they get to the interesting content. One to watch for now.

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