I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that Portal 2 is one of my favorite games of 2011 and Antichamber one of my favorites of 2013, and it’s easy to see why: In a genre populated so sparsely by solid entries, the few gems really do stand out, and Magnetic: Cage Closed is certainly among them. Seemingly inspired by horror film The Cube, Magnetic takes place in a prison in which an inmate designated XE-47623 is given a magnetic device and instructed to either cooperate (and survive the trials laid before him) or die.
If the Portal Gun is a laser, the Magnet Gun is a Revolutionary War-era cannon — instead of controlling space and physics, it’s just a ludicrously powerful magnet. Operating the gun itself is fairly simple, with two power settings: Attract and Oppose. Again, Magnetic’s titular gun is not all-powerful — attract an object too massive, and you begin to be drawn towards it, potentially to your death. In that same way, objects seem to move in a realistic manner, as they do not immediately fly to your gun once attracted.
As with most puzzle shooters, relatively simple early room give way to sprawling, labyrinthian curiosities which take much introspection — and often a little unconventional thinking — to solve. Unlike other games in the genre, Magnetic’s puzzles do not rely entirely on the magnet gun: There are a ton of environmental factors at play here. For instance, magnetic plates can be used to perform some pretty intense trick-shots with objects, like curving them around a corner or shooting you upward. It feels great when you put some english on a cube and see it whirl around a corner and lock into place. In addition, there are many hazards like Tesla-esque coils that arc lightning, fire-breathing apparatuses in walls, and pits of what seem to be poisonous gas.
Like with the best games in the genre, puzzle solutions can sometimes be your own creation. Solving a room in a way that seems to “beat” the game’s design makes you feel like a genius; on the same token, being stuck on a puzzle for what feels like forever only to come back two hours later and solve it immediately is incredibly frustrating. That’s less an issue with the games themselves and more to do with the fact that three-dimensional puzzle games are often somewhat overwhelming at first. To break up the monotony, every now and then you’re given a sort of “psych evaluation” — you’re given a test, and your choices determine the layout and type of puzzle rooms you get. According to the Steam achievements, there are nine endings total, though I’m not sure exactly how different those endings are. It’s an interesting solution to puzzle game replayability, though — usually, once you’ve seen a puzzle game once, you’ve seen all of it.
Magnetic is moody, dark, and mechanical. Whirring of gears and grinding of metal against a pristine fore-drop of what are clearly elaborately-constructed chambers really sets a consistent tone. It looks and feels great on every level except the user interface: While technically quite well laid-out, the blue color scheme feels a bit at odds with the game’s ominous, dangerous aesthetic. It really does feel like there was a clear and consistent vision for the tone — something that many independent games are sorely lacking.
I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on Magnetic’s final build. It’s easily one of the better games in the genre, and if what I played is anything as good as the final version, I’m on board. It presses all my buttons: it’s gloomy, it’s moody, and it makes you think. It also has full controller support, which is always nice to see. Magnetic releases later this month for $15 on Steam, Xbox One, and PS4. You can see the trailer below.