Magnetic: Cage Closed
It can seem a little mean to take a small yet ambitious indie title like Magnetic: Cage Closed, compare it to a critically acclaimed game such as Portal and then find it wanting. However, this amiable title from developer Guru Games apes Valve’s space-warping masterpiece so much that it’s difficult not to make comparisons whilst regularly bemoaning to yourself that, good as it may be, Magnetic: Cage Closed is no Portal.
Players emerge into a futuristic, utilitarian prison and are handed an experimental magnetic gun by the unseen prison warden who proceeds to explain the premise. Complete a series of puzzle rooms ahead and show your general usefulness and your crimes against humanity will be forgiven. Fail to hit the targets and you will, at best, remain imprisoned. At worst? You'll die. The set-up is perhaps telegraphed a little too eagerly, but players will be in little doubt as to what’s expected of them.
Like Portal, the idea that each room is a constructed puzzle specifically for testing your new weapon is neat get-out clause. There’s no need to explain the increasingly bizarre situations you find yourself in – your environment is a case of painstaking design, both within and out-with the game’s world. In this regard Magnetic has a fairly smooth difficulty curve and it’s clear that the designers have put a lot of thought into this aspect.
The facility itself is rather sparse and frills-free, as you might expect of a high facility prison. The thrum of machinery does a decent job of providing an ominous atmosphere, one that pervades through the public address system voice overs, all in all creating a reasonably believable world.
However, the pauses the game makes whilst it extols more dialogue can grow increasingly wearisome particularly as the main antagonist, the prison warden, delivers his lines in a somewhat over-the-top fashion. It also breaks the flow of the game time and again as you end up whiling away another minute looking around a barren room whilst the dialogue reels itself off. Again, the writers are aiming for the bleak humour of Portal, which they can’t quite achieve, at least not without virtually stopping the game in the process.
These though are the game’s extras if you like and they can’t quite detract from the core idea here. The magnetic gun can’t quite compete with the device conjured up by Aperture Science but it’s still a nifty little device. Metal ledges and floor grills all come into play as you push and pull your protagonist to each level exit with some dexterity of the mind needed to overcome the initial ‘feel’ of the weapon and the latter difficulty of some levels.
It’s also a fairly short experience that doesn’t outstay its welcome, something that would have been easy to do with a bit of level padding. There are also multiple endings with some of your decisions having ramifications further down the field. This is a nice idea and something that helps differentiate Magnetic even if such rewards are probably not quite enough for most players to load up a second playthrough.
Had Guru Games taken a few more chances like this then Magnetic may well have benefitted. As such it feels like a title that, despite a solid premise, doesn’t feel particularly confident in itself. Imagine a likeable ten year old dressing up like his older teenage brother and you’re somewhere there. However, scrape off all the Portal-isms and you’ll find that Magnetic: Cage Closed has some of its own distinct character underneath.