- The folks at Buena Vista Games were kind enough to send over Meteos: Disney Magic for the Nintendo DS, and I'm going to continue the grand GSW tradition of only posting impressions of games created by Q Entertainment - of which this, alongside Lumines 2 for PS2, is the latest.

The first thing to note is the cute message on the back of the box: "Basic reading ability is needed to fully enjoy this game." And indeed it is, since there are several specifics tasks to be done in Story Mode which you have to understand in order to accomplish, such as blasting off particular types of block to complete levels.

Also worth commenting on is that this is actually an outsourced Q joint, as the credits explain: "Concept planning & Management: Q Entertainment; Development: ASPECT Co. Ltd, Platinum Egg Inc.; Product management: Jamsworks Co." All small Japanese devs, I think - if anyone knows anything about them, post in the comments. [UPDATE: Even before this went live, Brandon Sheffield has done the research for us - all hail the IC massif!]

So, the gameplay! I feel that being able to shuffle blocks both vertically and horizontally makes the game, sure, slightly more of a vanilla block-shuffler, but much more natural and fun to play. Meteos is fun, but for me it always felt like I had one hand tied behind my back while playing it because of the vertical only gameplay. (Though I believe that the hardest single-player level in Disney Magic has horizontal shuffling turned off, and turned on via a power-up?)

- Something that I definitely appreciate is a little depth, and with silver and gold benchmarks to beat on each level in Meteos: Disney Magic (apart from an actual 'Stage Passed' milestone), you can keep going back to do better - though you need to play through levels in one sitting.

Also, the branching level structure after the 'Easy' stage in Story Mode is appreciated for a bit of variety. Honestly, the game doesn't seem that easy for a Disney-themed title, either. 'Normal' level was already reasonably challenging for me, and there's 'Hard' and 'Expert' after that, as well as various endless-style modes. There's a lot to keep you occupied there.

In addition, it's good to see another game with vertical orientation, something that started feeling more natural on DS after Brain Age did it. [Mind you, I don't think the original DS works quite so well vertically, ergonomically speaking, but the DS Lite certainly does.]

For me, the art was just a little bit 'vanilla', for some reason. I think I expected slightly twisted and cooler versions of Disney characters, but maybe I'm spoilt by Kingdom Hearts, which does that really well. And also, this is a game for kids and families, not for me, so they would likely be expecting regular depictions of their Disney favorites, from Toy Story through Lilo & Stitch and beyond - there's even Pirates Of The Caribbean in there somewhere. And Nightmare Before Christmas, of course - which looks cool, actually.

Overall, this is competent and playable, and I'm actually having more fun with it than the original Meteos. But it's not as cool and original IP and all that kinda of stuff, and you don't get to mess with planets and weird abstract signs. Hey - how about Disney characters traveling through the Meteos universe? That would have been the ultimate mash-up here. But I'm just spitballing now, and the fact is that this is a fine DS puzzler based on a neat concept (lacking only Wi-Fi play, boo), and well worth checking out.