The highlights of playdead’s Limbo for me (and there were many) sometimes had nothing to do with the twitch-heavy puzzles or their memory-based solutions, but rather the ‘wrapping’ that the game came in. The black and white and foggy grays, the signs of humanity amid a crushing feeling of isolation, ingenious use of sound (and lack thereof), or any one of the ancillary elements that combined to make that impressive whole. Tripleslash Studios’ Magnetic By Nature: Awakening (80 MSP) is quite a different beast in comparison (less depressing, more Journey-ish), yet that same sense of ‘wrapping’, of all the supporting parts coming together and melding a coherent, exquisite game, is readily apparent.
For MbN, this is less environmental and implied (though there are plenty of dark colors to match the sparseness), with more focus on its gameplay and puzzles. Needless to state (the title should have clued you in), magnets will factor heavily into those solutions. Our nameless Robotagonist finds itself in an underground world of abandoned ancient structures, with no way out, or so it seems. There’s no one else around, but the robot can use its powers over polarity to stick to and repel away from the various magnets / boost pods in the environment… that were conveniently left behind. Hmm, how very deus ex machina of that forward-thinking civilization, wherever it went.
Contrived plot device aside, the gameplay is better for it. MbN features 36 stages across three worlds, separated thematically by their visual style and musical score. While the initial set of levels are glorified tutorials (kudos, however, for the ’hands on’ nature of the learning process, as opposed to boring text), the stages soon open themselves up to some unique layouts and dynamic navigation, frequently requiring your powers-at-odds to be used in tandem in order to carry you to a safe landing or reach a distant exit flower. The routes will increase in difficulty as you venture forth, forcing you to weave through tight columns, activate switches by lugging magnets, and cross a pit of merciless saw blades purely by slinging yourself around (trust me, this is handled better in practice than I can possibly explain).
Like kicking a field goal… with magnets.
You will inevitably die, quite a bit, but checkpoints are well-placed and offset most of the trouble without holding your hand. Repeated plays will often show you a faster path and / or shave seconds off your time anyway, working to continually hone your magnetic personality. Despite some suffocating lag in the latter half of the game (solvable for now by restarting the level; a fix is forthcoming) and ill-advised ‘chased by a laser beam’ stages (only two, but they’re jarring and cause some unnecessary frustration), there’s a lot to admire here.
The Art Deco visuals shine, which, when combined with the clever use of magnetism and its inherent momentum, makes for quite the attractive (yeah, that’s a pun) product. Don’t let the current lag and performance issues dissuade you. With some brilliant puzzle design and beautiful art and aesthetics, Magnetic By Nature: Awakening belongs in anyone’s collection of puzzle / platformers.