First-person puzzler Magnetic: Cage Closed is like Portal, cubed

Guru Games isn't afraid of having their recently-announced game, Magnetic: Cage Closed compared to Portal. In fact, that's where it started: a school project designed as an homage to both Valve's famous, meme-producing first-person puzzler and lesser-known horror/suspense film, Cube.

Magnetic takes place in an alternate history version of the 1960s, where inmates sentenced to death can be sold for scientific testing. Such is your fate, as you are a prisoner charged with testing the D27 Magnetic Propulsion Device – or, in simpler terms, a magnet gun.

Completing Facilty 7's tests begin simply: use the magnet gun to pull a block over to a switch that opens a door. Easy, right? Later on, you'll be challenged with managing multiple blocks while you dodge fire, electric shock and other deadly traps. Less easy, especially given the current physics system.

During my playtime with a PAX South demo, I found myself both enamored with and frustrated by Magnetic's physics. The magnetic pull of the gun does not make items susceptible to magnetism any lighter, and they often roll and tumble on their way to you rather than sliding in a straight line. This I liked.

However, while using the magnet gun to propel items away from you seems realistic in that the items in question feel like they have weight, that also makes aiming quite difficult. I found myself grimacing any time I saw a switch not placed on the ground, as I knew it was going to take repeated efforts to propel a block in just the right way so as to hit the switch. This I did not like so much.

This is not to say the central mechanic of gravity as a force is bad; far from it. It's simply that where other games would make grappling with an object feel effortless – as though your hands were a tractor beam of sorts – Guru Games is making you feel the weight and resistance of each item you interact with. It takes some getting used to, and a brief demo is hardly enough time to acclimate.

Still, the fact that these puzzle pieces react to your presence and the presence of the magnet gun realistically does present an advantage: multiple puzzle solutions, some of which happen by dumb luck. In one test chamber, a large block – too heavy for me to carry – sat behind a high wall. By moving the block onto a nearby switch, I could lower the wall.

Observing what had just happened, I was curious to see if I could pull the block to me fast enough so that it would avoid getting trapped again. Standing on top of the then-lowered wall, I aimed the gravity gun at the block, turned the intensity of the magnetic pull to max, and clicked. As it slowly drifted toward me and off the switch, the wall began to raise. Fortunately, a corner of the box caught the edge of the wall, and it tumbled up and over to the other side. Success!

I was later told I could have just stood on the switch myself and pushed the block past the wall.

... Well yeah, but where's the fun in that?

Along with multiple solutions (intentionally designed or not), Magnetic will also feature branching paths so that multiple playthroughs are experienced differently. Some choices that impact which path the game will take will be obvious (such as choosing whether or not to press a button), while others will be hidden. Guru is working to ensure that the difficulty scales appropriately so that players aren't dropped into rooms that are suddenly far too difficult or too easy. It's an interesting way to give what could be an extremely linear experience replayability, and I look forward to seeing how well the concept is executed.

Magnetic: Cage Closed is due on Steam, PS4 and Xbox One in late March.

[Image: Guru Games]