Review by MrLipid
I'm going to say this right up front. I am a big fan of pure puzzle
games. Jewels of the Oracle, Gems of Darkness, even Karma:
Curse of the 12 Caves. Own Pandora's
Box, all three editions of Smart Games and
a couple variations of Teazle. Have even played Milo.
I am one of those folks who is perfectly content to solve puzzles
in the complete absence of a story. Why be forced to wade through
the all-too-often dismal dialogue? Why not just cut right to the
Given my bias, Magnetic, an independent production by Peter
Hewitt of Xiama
fame, should have been halfway to a thumbs up or maybe even
a star before landing on my desk. Should have been. Didn't make
it. What went wrong?
"My Name Is Quarm and I'll Be Your Sidekick this Evening ..."
Like Xiama, Magnetic offers a series of games and puzzles
set against pleasing photographs of Hewitt's native Australia.
One welcome refinement is the addition of an in-game assistant.
Rather than enter your name, you select from one of six digital
sidekicks. You simply click on your chosen sidekick at the start
of a session and away you go. Be advised that your digital buddy
is responsible for autosaving your games and keeps track of both
your successes and your failures.
Your digital buddy also serves as a docent who, if asked, will
provide hints as to how a game (or puzzle) works and what must be
done in order to beat (or solve) it. Even with the hints, there
is plenty of "I wonder what will happen if I do this?"
in Magnetic as one attempts to dope out the mechanics of
the various games and puzzles.
There are 31 challenges in all, some slight, some substantial.
Once Magnetic's first big challenge has been beaten, players
must locate and beat 15 simpler stumpers to gain access to the 15
major challenges. Once a major challenge has been reached, even
if it has not been beaten, Magnetic provides a visual menu
that allows players to return immediately to it for another go.
The photographic backgrounds are quite attractive, the individual
games and puzzles have a bit more polish than those found in Xiama
and the soundtrack is sufficiently subdued (birds, surf, an
occasional musical flourish) to allow one to concentrate on the
tasks at hand.
Workin' in the Coal Mine, Goin' Down, Down, Down ...
And now begins the bad news. Magnetic is not so much a game
of games as it is a collection of repetitive tasks. Magnetic
is just not much fun. Unlike Xiama, Magnetic is tilted
more toward logic and math games than puzzles. One is often playing
against the computer, trying, in too many cases, to prevent it from
making the last move. Remember the microscope puzzle in The
7th Guest? Imagine a collection of games built along
that line. Yum. Or not.
And it gets worse. Denying the computer the last move in one of
the 15 major challenges is not enough. Not nearly enough. I shudder
when remembering the moment that it dawned on me that the only way
I could get past one of the majorlet's just call them obstacles
rather than challenges and be done with itwas by beating the
computer eight times in a row. Eight times! And if I lost
a round, I would simply have to replay it. And replay it. And replay
it. And then do the same thing again 14 more times. The 7th Guest,
by providing a way for players to sidestep those sections that
proved too frustrating, demonstrated a level of generosity absent
Even a great stumper loses its appeal if the game developer requires
that players beat it repeatedly just to move on. This design choice
feels lazy ... as lazy as the maze and arcade sequences in DogDay.
Forcing players to (seemingly) endlessly replay components of
a title is a tedious substitute for creating something new that
can earn and deserve a similar interval of rapt attention.
Had Enough? How About Some More ...
Magnetic offers a variation of the repeated play gambit
with the more of the same ploy. Win a round involving
a 3×3 grid and you'll find you've earned the opportunity to
try again with a 4×4 grid, and then a 5×5 grid, a 6×6
grid, a 7×7 grid and, finally, an 8×8 grid. And if you
fail to win a round, the game resets to its previous level. Blow
it on the 5×5 and you get tossed back to the 4×4, etc.
Doesn't that sound like fun?
What makes this so frustrating is that the simpler stumpers are
actually pretty interesting. There is a coin puzzle that will have
players smacking their foreheads for not immediately seeing its
solution. And there is a puzzle involving a turtle that, while it
has to be beaten three times, treats players fairly and rewards
close attention to cause and effect.
Over and Over and Over Again, this Dance Is Gonna Be a Drag ...
As much as it pains me to say it, given the earnest good intentions
that were obviously part of Magnetic's production, Magnetic
is just not very successful as entertainment. The lack of variety
among Magnetic's games, coupled with the requirement that
half of them must be played way too many times, produces an experience
that is, at best, mediocre. Had there been more variety or less
insistence on repetition or both, Magnetic might have earned
a place among the near-greats. Near-greats like, say, Milo.
(If, after all this, you're still interested, you can get a pretty
good idea what to expect from Magnetic by going here.)
Release Date: March 2003
Four Fat Chicks Links
Pentium 166 or better
32 MB RAM
Plays from CD (or requires 340 MB free hard disc space)
4X CD-ROM drive
Direct X 7 (included)
640×480 resolution, 16-bit high color video mode
100% DirectX compatible soundcard and drivers
100% Direct-3D compatible video card with 2 MB VRAM
100% Microsoft compatible mouse/keyboard and drivers
Where to Find It
Dreaming $22.00 (includes shipping)
Prices/links current as of 12/11/03
Links provided for informational purposes only.
FFC makes no warranty with regard to any transaction entered into
by any party(ies).