Developer: 3am Games, Frogwares
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Platform: [Reviewed: PC], PSN, XBLA
Genre: Action/Adventure, Puzzle
Rated: M for Mature
With the gaming industry being dominated by first person shooters it’s always nice to take a break every so often and exercise our minds rather than see how fast we can pull the trigger and wipe out opposing forces. Magrunner: Dark Pulse is a magnificently polished, portal-like title with a maniacal story that becomes crazier and more awesome the further you venture into its futuristic world.
Set several decades in the future, the Gruckezber Corporation uses its near limitless funding to find a free source of energy for space exploration – the result is the development of Magnetic Technology. Kram Gruckezber wants to test his newly founded Magtech and the possibilities of citizen-candidates to explore with this new technology; among many only seven were chosen and deemed “Magrunners”.
You are Dax C. Ward, an orphaned genius and one of the chosen candidates to undergo the tests with the support of Gamaji, family friend and mutant. On the surface all seems normal as you complete each test, but as time progresses and unnatural events unfold, it is revealed that Cthulhu is running rampant! Naturally it’s up to you to uncover the mysteries behind the facility and your past.
Players will notice the uncanny similarities that this title shares with another well-known puzzle game: Portal. You’re stuck inside a testing facility solving increasingly intricate puzzles with an awesome piece of hardware. But don’t brush it off as a simple Portal clone. Instead of portals players will be in control of negative and positive magnetic polarities to attract or repel objects and platforms.
The pacing is done very well as the game gives you a few easy puzzles to test the effects of magnetism on different object and how they can be applied to solve puzzles. Each room presents new and clever ways for you to think outside the box, using learned skills and using them in new ways.
The world of Magrunner is presented with colorful visuals and sharp edges as you progress through the early stages of the game. Later on when the forces of madness run amuck, the once pristine and environment becomes torn and damaged and the further into the game you go the more you see the world transform into the incredibly cool Cthulhu-inspired levels. You eventually enter the domain of the demi-god himself, showcasing beautifully sinister landscapes.
The music at first does well to place Magrunner in its futuristic setting. When the atmosphere and world takes a diabolical turn you realize that the soundtrack really gives you a sense that evil has awakened. Any players familiar with the horrifying indie games SCP-087-B and SCP Containment Breach will recognize some of the audio, which for me actually gave me goose bumps and sent shivers down my spine!
Magrunner: Dark Pulse may come across as a Portal imitator on the surface, but once you get into the story and magnificent core mechanic you will see that it is anything but. The puzzles prove to be quite challenging while maintaining a great balance of difficulty; enough time and concentration will guarantee success. The game could have focused on the puzzles alone and it still would’ve been a great game, but on top of that is a wonderfully twisted and close imagining of the story of technology meet Cthulhu. Albert Einstein once said that insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting different results; thankfully Magrunner will have you thinking of different ways to save yourself from the insanity of Cthulhu!
Replay Ability: 4.25/5
Overall Rating: 4.75/5