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You would be forgiven for thinking that Magrunner is a Portal clone. Yes, you have a suspiciously similar gun and yes, it fires two different powers using the left and right mouse buttons. But don’t be fooled. Magrunner is no scientific testing laboratory. It is, believe it or not, a Lovecraftian horror game in space, complete with Cthulu invasion. Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn. Not for much longer, he doesn’t.
The premise behind Magrunner is pretty standard. You’re a contestant in a reality show competition to win million credits. The competition was set up technology company Gruckezber, to promote their new magnet-based techonology. Your job is to show off the new MagTech glove by being the first to escape from a giant cube that floats in space and is filled with smaller cube chambers.
Developers 3am Games have drawn inspiration from all over. Fans of bad sci-fi will recognise elements of the competition’s cube setting from the 1997 film, The Cube, only this time there won’t be a savant spouting prime numbers and the world hasn’t been designed specifically to slice you into tiny pieces.
Instead, you’ll talk regularly with your competition sponsor by stopping in the Big Brother diary-room-ish bathroom. From here, you’ll be transported between sections of the major cube and also be able to check on the progress of other contestants.
The first few levels are simple enough – training scenarios to get you thinking with your MagTech glove. Click with the left button and you’ll fire a charge that sets designated orange objects to blue polarity. Click with the right and the objects will carry a red charge. Rather confusingly for anyone who’s played with magnets, opposites do not attract in this game. Instead, like attracts like, so charging two blocks with blue will stick them together. Conversely, place a small red block on a blue platform and it will ping up into the air, shattering any glass platforms that might be in its way.
Later levels will require plenty of careful planning and tricks like this. The third level I played included an insta-kill turret, platforms hidden in tunnels that were impossible to reach, and plenty of challenges to my limited spatial reasoning. You’ll be dealing with broken environments through much of the game, so sticking your head out through doorways and climbing around vents will be the key to success. I’m fairly sure I even managed to trap myself at one point by sending away a platform I shouldn’t have. Hopefully that won’t happen too often.
If there’s no obvious solution in sight, you may need employ your Aibo-like robodog companion, Newton. Newton can be charged just like the orange platforms, so if you place him carefully, you can use him to ease platforms and blocks out of position. His grip on a surface is unbreakable, so you can happily fire him up to ceiling, or use him as a doorstop to prevent platforms from moving beyond a certain point.
As for Cthulu? These are strange aeons indeed.
Magrunner will be released on PSN, XBLA and PC in Q2 2013.