Overall Rating: 6.5 out of 10
What happens when you put together Portal
, Cthulhu Mythos and magnets? this is what you get. In fact, that's precisely what you pay for, and that doesn't disappoint in that regard. Magrunner: Dark Pulse
is an interesting first person puzzle platformer. If you've played Portal
or Quantum Conundrum
, this is the style of gameplay but instead of portals or changing the dimension the room is in, you harness the power of magnetism. The gameplay is centered around using a Mag Glove to manipulate platforms, cubes and stationary objects to finish a level. This allows a level of thinking similar to other puzzle platformers, but the method was not explored until now.
How Does it Play?
The game is a real mind bender and has the player execute platforming skills while solving the puzzle on the fly. Not only are you switching the magnetism of something(attract/repel) but you're usually jumping along something at the same time. It usually works. However, the limits of the physics that the Unreal Engine has means now and then there will be moments where the physics will go hay wire and make you redo part of a puzzle again or kill you if you're dealing with explosive cubes or pit falls. Each puzzle takes about the time of what you would expect, about the same as a Portal
puzzle room if you try it the first time. The difficulty curve is gradual and does not erratically change back and forth when progressing.
One feature of the game you recieve mid way through the game is Newton, a robotic dog you can attach to most surfaces that has his own magnetic pull(or repel depending on how you want to use him), I found this an interesting way to make the puzzles more interesting, changing the entire thought process on beating a level. However, I found Newton to be really hit or miss. Sometimes his magnetic pull and radius of it to be too small in some instances, when you have to guide along a cube on wall to get it to the other side of a pit, sometimes the angle on which you're looking to move Newton will mean the cube is just barely out of reach of the "New" Newton, and you have to redo that part of the puzzle again(as in the cube respawns at a set point, not restarting from a checkpoint) Another point of dismay with Newt is you might end up spawning him when you don't want to, which can destroy progress on certain puzzles, which can be frustrating.
The Mag Glove itself, I must add, is responsive and easy to use, especially with the zoom feature that makes sure you're hitting the right thing when you're in larger areas, you can even hold down one of the mouse buttons to have it paint a laser over where you want to shoot, making sure you're always landing your charge changing shot where you want it.
Despite Newton helping you along and the precision and reliability of your Mag Glove, the physics do not feel right in this game. While puzzles work as intended, it feels like the pulling strength is weaker than the repelling strength, which can throw off a players timing and how they are going about solving a puzzle. It also sometimes flat out doesn't work, sometimes you must ride a cube up a shaft or sling accross a chasm on one, and sometimes it just fails with no fault on the players end. Why this has yet to be fixed, I have no idea. Explosive cubes also sometimes blow up in the players hand for no reason, especially on the final boss fight.
Speaking of, (spoiler free!) the final boss/puzzle is, interesting. It's not bad, but because of a flaw with saving, it can become impossible. Explosive cubes are thrown at you if you're not fast enough stunning the one who's throwing them at you, and right when you die, you can pass through a save "gate" on the platform(s). If this happens, the level must be restarted. This segment of the final area feels tacked on as if they forgot they needed to make a final boss. The save system in general is wonky, you cannot save manual, and it only saves once you reach certain parts of the map, but since the levels do not progress in a set pattern or line, you may find yourself activating a save gate when you didn't want to, meaning, when you do more of the puzzle and die, you go back further than normal, as the gate does not activate again with the exception of a couple levels.
All in all, it is perfectly playable, but rough around the edges. If you're a fan of puzzles and platformers, and of course, Portal
, then the game is for you. Now, onto the other bits of what the game offers.
How's the Story?
Bluntly, not good. It feels extremely cobbled together, as if the only thought of the entire development was "Portal x Cthulhu!" While an interesting premise, the execution falls flat on its face. None of the characters are likable, the dialogue feels wooden and unconvincing (especially form the antagonist) most if not all character interactions are done from holochat, basically the characters are projected above your mag glove, which is cool, and talk to you, nice idea but it doesn't help much with the story, especially when you die and have to listen and look at them over and over again.
The concept of a utopian, globally linked world with Cthulhu Mythos is interesting all the way through, but usually only through the imagery you actually see as you play through the game, later levels have a giant vision/hallucination of cthulhu, in a dark backround while you solve puzzles, it looks utterly incredible and scary. But it does not help the plot, the plot feels extremely shallow and cobbled together, as stated before. I can't emphasis that enough, the game really feels disjointed because of the story.
How Does it Look?
Great! The game runs on Unreal Engine 3, while aged, still manages to look great with this game, the texture work is fantastic. The latter levels that take place in space are awe inspiring, the nebulae, galaxies and planets swirl around you, the petrified/statues of hidious eldritch nightmares(and the living ones, too!) have real texture and a sense of slime to them. I admit however, the character models aren't that great, they seem modeled well with a good poly count, but they aren't animated very well, including all the people who holo chat with you and the Deep One monsters you encounter(the fish people), are not animated very well and are pretty unconvincing in their movement.
The game is fairly easy to run and should run fine on low end computers too. However, if you're playing at a high resolution(1080 p or higher) you will experience some incredible screen tearing, whcih can detract from the set pieces and overall look and flow of the game. Interestingly, vsync can be turned on to mitigate this, but you must do so through the config files, as well as AA, ambient occlusion and motion blur. Why these graphic options are not in the menu, I have no idea.
How Does it Sound?
Decent. While not the best audio work i've heard, the music is fitting to the level at hand and the eerie and strange tone of the game, while keeping that futuristic, techy feel. The sound effects are great, the clank of a falling cube, the destruction of a wall, the sound of platforms sliding/being activated, the impact of the player as he lands on the ground.
Sadly, as mentioned before, the voicework is poor. Not only is it poorly acted, it feels very static when played and not mixed well into the overall sound of the game. For example, when you fall, Dax makes a yell/scream, but it's mastered so low you probably won't hear it unless you have headphones.
Good game but flawed, needs work in quite a few areas. You'll get about 10 hours of gameplay your first run, and is enjoyable if just for the first time. However, wait for it to be on sale, $20 USD is a bit too much for this game, $12 feels more fair to the quality, content and length. Take it for what it is, and you'll enjoy it :)