Magnetic By Nature

Update: Magnetic By Nature recieved a Second Chance with the Chick.  Click here for my continued thoughts on it.  In short: the framerate issues were fixed. 

Magnetic By Nature is the latest game from students attending the University of Utah.  I know what you’re thinking.  “Hey, wait a second.  What do people from Utah know about having fun?  Didn’t they ban their only form of that in the 40s?”  Actually, inappropriate polygamy jokes aside, they know plenty about fun.  Atari founder Nolan Bushnell discovered the medium of games as a student at the University of Utah.  So in essence, we owe the gaming industry as it exists today to their beautiful, boring, Pac-10 devaluing institution.  It makes me happy that the science of creating games is taught there to this day.  It would be wrong otherwise, like if Harvard stopped teaching law, or Fresno State stopped teaching binge drinking.

In M-B-N, you play as a robot who has to make his way across levels by using magnetic powers.  I played a game with a similar hook last year, the beautiful but frustrating to the point of not being so fun Lumi.  Magnetic features more intuitive controls and faster-paced gameplay than that disappointing Dream-Build-Play winner.  I actually expected nothing more than a glorified sampler here, because the team behind it is actively using crowd funding to prepare a larger PC release.  Combine that with the XBLIG version coming in at 80MSP and featuring the subtitle “Awakening.”  Which, by the way, is about as unimaginative a subtitle as you can get.  I look forward to the sequel, which will no doubt be called “The Return.”  Or, if they’re feeling frisky, “The Revenge.”

Show of hands: who is sick of games wit the Limbo-like silhouette thing? Let's see, 1, 2, 3, 4..

Show of hands: who is sick of games with the Limbo/Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet-like silhouette thing? Let’s see, 1, 2, 3, 4..

Anyway, the XBLIG version of Magnetic most definitely does not feel like a sampler, even if the devs say that’s what it is.  You’ll get a complete experience that will take about sixty to ninety minutes to complete.  Levels range from dexterity-based platforming challenges to physics-based puzzles, the latter of which there aren’t nearly enough of.  Mostly, the game centers around precision flinging of the protagonist.  And it really is flinging.  Even by time the game ended, I had never gotten fully used to the physics, or had a comfortable feel for trajectories and speed.  In essence, your character is a guided missile and you’ll often feel a sense of luck rather than accomplishment when clearing a tricky stage.  In many games, that would be annoying.  In M-B-N, it seems fitting.  I had a little magnet play set when I was a kid and I remember how tough it was to push stuff across a table in a straight line using them.  I thought of that while playing this game.  It gives it an authentic feel.  By the way, I had that magnet set for about a week, but then Daddy took it away after I showed him the pretty rainbow I made on the television using it.  True story.

But, other control issues rear their ugly head.  Movement without the magnets feels too touchy.  Sometimes this combines with the magnetic gimmick to cause extra frustration, like a stage with a moving magnet and increasingly narrow rows of spikes that requires you to simultaneously feather the joystick and the magnetic circle.  But at least stages like that are manageable.  A pair of auto-scrolling stages with a deadly beam of light that I called the Kill You Bar were bungled about as bad as they could have been, simply due to the bar moving too fast.  I’m also of the belief that these stages were in the wrong order.  The last one of these was a brainless trial-and-error reflex tester.  The first auto-scroll stage seemed to combine the best ideas of the game’s physics and had a climatic feel to it.  In fact, it probably could have been the final stage of the whole game.  Sadly, both these sections (the second one especially), were hampered by frame rate hiccups that seemed to get worse the more times you died. The lag became so bad that it rendered Magnetic By Nature completely broken.  Then something weird happened.  I found out that if you hit restart and have the game reload the level instead of just respawning after death, the lag becomes tolerable and I was able to finish the stage.  It’s still inexcusable to exist like this, but the game is strong enough that you’ll want to finish.

..1,947,685, 1,947,686, 1,947,687, 1,947,688.. you know what, I think they get the picture.

..1,947,685, 1,947,686, 1,947,687, 1,947,688.. you know what, I think they get the picture.

On the bright side, the developers are aware of a couple of the more frustrating issues and are working on fixes.  But even before they’re done, Magnetic By Nature is a surprisingly solid game.  I’ve played several student projects since starting Indie Gamer Chick, and while some have been decent enough, none have outright impressed me.  Magnetic By Nature does.  I guess the reason for my surprise was, despite a cool looking trailer, I had low expectations going in.  Physics puzzlers on XBLIG are typically disasters.  Plus, I’m completely burned out on the whole silhouette-hero in a dark world thing, which is about as common a feature among indie platformers these days as the ability to jump.  But I had no need to worry.  Magnetic By Nature, despite problems, is genuinely fun and refreshing and you should expect to enjoy it.  Bravo University of Utah guys and gals who made this and carry the legacy of the founding fathers of the gaming industry.  But please, for God’s sake, stick with making games.  Don’t open a chain of arcade-pizzerias with singing rats and shitty food.  That’s a legacy you can live without.

xboxboxartMagnetic By Nature was developed by Tripleslash Studios

80 Microsoft Points wonder why so many former Utes end up stinking up the sporting scene where I live in the making of this review.

Magnetic By Nature is Chick Approved and ranked on the Indie Gamer Chick Leaderboard.  The presence of University of Utah in the Pac-12 is most certainly not Chick Approved.

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About Indie Gamer Chick
The most read Xbox Live Indie Game critic in the world.

11 Responses to Magnetic By Nature

  1. AxelMill98 says:

    I really wanted to try this game, and seeing your review, I wanted it even more.
    But when I start a new game, after the loading screen, the only thing that appears on screen is an endless screensaver-like thing that slides from the bottom to the top. The only thing I can do is move left and right and press Back to return (I think) where I started. Did it happen to anyone else?

    • Andrew Jones says:

      That’s certainly odd – we haven’t run into that particular bug before. If you pause and try ‘restart level’ does it still do it? I’m not sure I really understand what the screensaver-like thing would look like. Is there any way that you could send me a picture of what it’s doing?
      We will be pushing an update later this week to address some of the issues (improved performance & controls mostly) and we’ll do our best to also fix this issue.

  2. Brendan says:

    Hi AxelMill98, sorry about the problems! Have you tried pressing “start” on your controller and then selecting “retry current level”? This should fix the issue. If you still have issues you can reach us at contact@tripleslashstudios.com. This bug should be fixed in the next update.

  3. AxelMill98 says:

    Here’s the video:

  4. Notice the language Triple Slash Studio 😉 probably caveat 1 on the evil checklist towards the bottom.

    • Andrew Jones says:

      WARNING – techno-babble incoming
      Yeah, we thought we had caught everywhere we might run into Culture differences but it looks like that might be the case. Going to debug on a console set to Italy culture tonight, hopefully have a fix up late this week.

  5. Jimmy Page says:

    In fairness the subtitle is at least more imaginative than episode 1 or Part 1.

  6. Pingback: REVIEW: Magnetic By Nature: Awakening | the / . / XBLIG

  7. Pingback: Your Bright Futures | Indie Gamer Chick

  8. Pingback: Statement on Magnetized | Indie Gamer Chick

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