Jun 28, 2013

Magrunner: Dark Pulse Review

Lights Off
3 Okay
Retails for: $19.99
We Recommend: $11.99
  • Developer: Frogwares
  • Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
  • Genre: Action, Adventure
  • Released: Jun 20, 2013
  • Platform: Windows
  • Reviewed: Windows

Crowd-funding is quite popular these days, and among them is the success for 3AM and Frogwares. Done via Gamesplanet Lab, is what brings Magrunner to us. Is it an attractive game, or polarizing to your wallet?

The idea here is that you’re manipulating the use of magnets, both red and green. Like colors attract, opposites repel. Which…goes against everything we’ve learned about how magnets work and the idiom about how couples do well if they are polar opposites. That said, it’s easy to get past that and start thinking about more pressing matters, like “How the hell am I going to get out of this room”?

You play as Dax. He lives in a world where competition is king. Only the sport is running around a test facility within MagTech against other Magrunners, giving you a real meaning for being there. And that’s about when the story starts to fade away and you’re to focus on the gameplay. In this 21st Century Lovecraft-inspired world, everything is seemingly well-meaning and proper. If it wasn’t immediate, over time you’ll find striking similarities to Portal as the test chamber slowly degrades as Cthulhu begins to encroach on the world.

Puzzles vary from challenging to hard-boiled. They require split-second decision making and planning things out. There’s little to no room for “winging it”. Trial and error may be your strategy. There are times that it unfortunately spikes and ramps up the difficulty for a particular puzzle, leaving you mildly frustrated. But it’s one of those games that you quit and when you come back, you instantly figure it out. Each location is separated by a loading screen and a door, as time goes on you can’t help but realize that the levels are cleverly inspired and fresh takes using the magnetism.

You rarely interact with people face-to-face, usually through hologram conversations and a buddy who helps you along the way. You’ll come across creatures and dead bodies of other Magrunners, but it feels just as isolated as Quantum Conundrum or Portal in which you are alone throughout the experience, except for the aforementioned conversations via hologram.

Vibrant colors pour throughout each level. It’s quite nice to see the pristine chambers and the colors working so well together. Even as the degradation occurs, the flora looks great. As you progress into space (spoilers! (not spoilers)), you’ll see wonderful vistas with spectacular views. There isn’t so much in the way of the music, and perhaps the most surprising is how well the voice acting is.

As you progress, the mechanics compound and the levels get more complex and other-worldly, the game’s pacing is straight-forward, delivering little to no surprises. There’s a lot of promise and some good ideas. But some of the execution falls short. However, if you’re looking for a challenge and really want to put your brain through hell, this is your game. Magrunner: Dark Pulse is like a soft, sensual handjob that’s quickly replaced by a bearclaw. In a good way.

A pre-release Steam code was provided by PR for review purposes.