It’s sad that what could have become the ‘FPS puzzle’ genre has in reality become the ‘Portal clone’ genre. Magnetic features a silent female protagonist, trapped in a series of test chambers, watched over by a disembodied voice (or two) and given an unusual physics-defying device with which they must complete the test chambers until things begin to go off the rails. Sound familiar?
Unfortunately, Magnetic’s device is much less interesting than the excellent Portal device. Here we have a magnet gun that can even attract or repel objects. Eventually it is powered up enough to propel yourself too, but for the most part you move blocks around with it. At various points the game comments on the fact that all you seem to be doing is putting blocks in different places, but sadly this self-aware sense of humour isn’t enough to make the tasks entertaining. Normally you have a small block or four that you can move around, and you must work out how to hit switches or arrange blocks in order to make all the lights go green so you can then carry on. After the midway point you are more often than not using it to push and pull yourself away from spikes and flamethrowers but this ends up being more frustrating than anything. In the sections where you’re not under strict conditions (similar in tone to Portal) unfortunately the gun is entirely useless, or even taken away from you.
The mechanics of the magnetic gun are Magnetic’s biggest problem. It is not precise enough for this kind of puzzle game, so often you’ll find yourself working out a problem, but then not being able to actually solve it because you’re fighting against the mechanics, with blocks not going quite where you want, getting stuck on geometry, or jumps being slightly too difficult. That being said, we finished the game with the best ending in three hours according to Steam (after being told it’d be five when given the review code) and that’s with us dying repeatedly in the first chapter.
In between chapters there are little choices to be made. Some seem arbitrary, some are clear binary moral choices, all define which of nine endings you get (only one of which is interesting) and all feel out of place and slightly pointless.
Despite all this negativity, there is fun to be had with the game. A couple of the puzzles are quite clever and bits of the dialogue are quite funny. On the other hand, the graphics are incredibly poor, the sound is dull and the same assets are used over and over again with practically no sense of art direction or flair. It’s just drab corridors, boxy rooms and different kinds of metal and concrete. A small tunnel you climb through between levels is repeated over and over again, so much so that you get sick of the slow crawling with low hanging lightbulbs you’d burn your head on and the chain tied to the right room. You see this so many times it really highlights the tedium of the game that leaves you hoping it’s over well before the three hour campaign is finished.
To round out the package there is a time trial mode, but no leaderboards. So you finish a level, it tells you your time, and then… nothing. There’s not even a display on the menu to show what your best time was. Magnetic: Cage Closed feels like it was rushed, with an script writer and some good ideas for puzzles being forced into a shoddy package that sucks the fun out of everything else. For £11.99 we can’t really recommend it, but if you love games like Portal it’s worth keeping an eye out during the sales. If you pick this up really cheaply you’ll get some entertainment from it.