Despite the large amount of games that people claim to have been influenced by the Portal games, their actual gameplay looked and played nothing like it. However, Magrunner: Dark Pulse actually does take a good amount from Portal almost to the point where it is hard to tell the difference between the two at first glance. However, when you actually get to play the game, it sets itself aside with very different ways to solve puzzles.
The game opens up to a cutscene that explains the current world and how a social network run by the Gruckezber Corporation called LifeNET has eliminated the need for everyday interactions across the globe. The corporation has plans to expand their horizons, creating a program to travel into deep space. Out of several contestants, all but seven remained, and the player assumes the role of one of the candidates named Dax Ward. He had lost his parents in an accident when he was very young but a family friend named Gamaji took him in. Growing up, Dax had shown that he possesses a knack for inventions, even making a gadget called the Magtech Glove. Though the game starts as a simple underdog story, the tone changes drastically when Cthulu mythos-inspired monsters appear and start to murder the other contestants. Even more mysterious are the hints that whatever is happening may have to do with the cult that Dax’s parents were involved in.
Gameplay in Magrunner sets itself apart from other puzzle games with the unique concept of using magnetism to solve a level. Dax’s Magtech Glove is able to emit to different polarities of magnetism onto certain key objects in a level. These polarities help you solve each challenge, such as getting to high ledges by standing on and then magnetizing two blocks with opposing charges to propel you upwards. It works opposite of how real magnetism does though, as the same charge attracts while opposites repel. The way that this is melded make for some fun and challenging puzzles, making most players think outside the box provided they have no prior puzzle-platformer experience. However, those who are fans of the genre will find the gameplay to be rather bland after a few hours. This is because, while the puzzles are challenging, they will never stump. On top of this, the game is rather long, providing about eleven hours of non-stop puzzles. This can become extremely tedious when trying to blow through the game. It attempts to alleviate this by throwing in new mechanics like pet robot Newton, who can create magnetic fields on almost any surface. Even farther in, light combat is introduced, but this only really boils down to launching explosive cubes at the murderous fish men.
The soundtrack consists of about four different songs, two of which are notable. One piece that plays during the segments before the creatures appear is a futuristic sounding one. It sounds similar to something that would be playing in the background of Deus Ex. The second is a generic song that accompanies you in the eerier segments of the game, and it evokes the sounds of the Spencer Mansion in Resident Evil. This lack of variety in the background music obviously gets old not two hours into the game.
A greater portion of the game’s environment contains several blatant references to the Cthulu mythos, which serves as the beliefs of the cult that is summoning the creatures terrorizing the facility. Statues of the creatures and writing on the walls in what is presumably blood add to the overall creepiness of the environment. However, the immersion is broken when you actually read the writing. The words written on the walls are hilarious to read, as they seem to be the words of a pre-teen who is attempting to write edgy poetry. This is mostly a feeble attempt at horror, not to mention that humanoid fish are not at all scary. Worst of all, the majority of the game relies on cat scares to deliver and is a very cheap way to keep players on edge.
For those who have experienced puzzle games before, this game is nothing too new or interesting, as the puzzles are not as challenging as other games. However, Magrunner is satisfying as an entry-level game. Easy to learn, and with plentiful auto save spots, the game never gets frustrating and is easy to put down at any time.
Available on: PC; Developer: 3AM Games; Players: 1; Released: June 20, 2013; ESRB: M; MSRP: $19.99: Official Site