Magnetis (PS3)

Magnet! MAGNET MAGNET!  ACEGAMEZ GAVE ME A MAGNET!

Read the full review below the cut:

Magnetis

At a strange and distant point in the latter half of last century, a computer programmer, named Alexey Leonidovich Pajitnov, had an idea that defied all logic.  The idea was that somehow if a person could manipulate an object tumbling down a shaft, they could derive a curiously addictive form of pleasure.  Pleasure that borders on obsessive compulsive disorder; certainly but not without its merits.  This strange and mercurial idea was the birth of Tetris and with it a simple yet revolutionary brand of puzzle game that could run on almost any computer and was child’s play to get to grips with.

Now naturally this being the cutthroat competitive consumerist games developing market, the general principal has as ever been decided to run any good idea into the ground.  Thus there are a plethora of similarly based ideas floating around from as far back as Blockout on the Commodore 64, so it’s both encouraging and depressing to see that the idea still hasn’t been flogged till the horse’s corpse was a sodden pit of blood and chunks.  It’s into this that Yullaby have released their own take on the idea; Magnetis. Having released the game for download on the Wii earlier this year, it’s both good and bad to see that the PC iteration of the game is almost utterly unchanged. Before going into the reasons why, it’s first helpful to go over the basic premise of the game.

The traditional tube of constantly falling rubbish is still present, as are the concepts of trying to empty the space before the tube fills up completely, yet there is a cunning new stratagem at play here.  To remove the blocks you must attach a magnet to each end; removing them and gaining more points for the more blocks that are vanished at once. Since all of the blocks fall in pairs you have a good chance of getting one of the horseshoe-style magnets with either a neutral block or another magnet.  Luckily the game lets you swap the pair around, albeit not allowing you to alter their orientation.  So should a yellow magnet drop with a block, the player can choose to put the block in front and add it to a magnetised line when it hits the floor, or possibly position it to fall into a gap of stacked blocks. The floor is a conveyor belt that can be shunted left or right, while the screen loops back upon itself.  Crafty moves will also win extra points as you can chain completed blocks to multiply the score.

Of course all of this would be too simple on its own, so to make matters less obvious, there are a series of different coloured magnets that must be paired off with each other.  Now forgetting for a moment that, as according to science, there technically ought to only be positive and negative magnets; there are the basic yellows, the blues and later on the greens.  Only combining two of the same colour will result in a block dematerialising. Link two different colours by the open end and you create a length of dead blocks.  These purple, x-marked blocks can only be removed by completing successful pairings beside them.  Annoying as these are it’s simply a result of lack of concentration on the player’s part, despite adding to the frantic frustration which ensues after you fail abysmally to get the blocks in the right place as the game’s speed ramps up to insane levels.

Naturally since the concept is the real draw of Magnetis, the interface is slightly less importance than the playability.  Which is in its favour as the game has the distinct look of old Atari puzzle game.  The arcade style menus are quaint but lack enough functionality to satisfy most fans.  The lack of volume and music controls, combined with no fullscreen options or even a widescreen function make plain how much of a port the game really is  That said, considering the asked price of the game is a paltry £3.49 from Steam, it seems churlish to quibble over such matters in what is expressly a simple budget indie game.  However the lack of any real novelty in the graphics or the sound, including the horrendously painful music really does it no favours.

Given the wealth of cheap games on the go currently it’s difficult to see how Magnetis is supposed to stand out amongst the giants of the field.  Rather it’s simply a poor second runner that might provide a few minutes of entertainment better spent elsewhere.

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