I loved Portal. In fact, I completed Portal for about the tenth time just a couple of weeks ago. Its sequel also remains one of my favorite games of all time, and I can recite just about every one of Cave Johnson’s lines, verbatim. Why am I mentioning Portal at the beginning of a review for another game? Because Portal is what Magnetic: Cage Closed is trying desperately to be.
The premise in Magnetic is that you’re prisoner XE-47623, trapped inside a correctional facility that doubles as a weapons testing ground known as Facility 7. The game gives you almost no backstory about why you’re there, but they drop you in the centre of a variety of puzzles and challenges, with the promise that if you successfully complete all of them, you’ll not only be released but your criminal record will be wiped completely clean. Otherwise, you’ll be left in Facility 7 to carry out the remainder of your sentence, or you’ll simply die in the process of completing a puzzle.
Every puzzle I came across revolved around the magnet gun, which allows you to perform a variety of tasks in the chambers, such as pulling metal boxes to you or pushing them away, pressing switches to end each chamber, pulling metal rods out of the walls to use them for platforming, and even propelling yourself upward to clear long gaps with the help of magnetic installations on the walls and floors. There were a few moments when the magnetic gun was taken away for short periods of time, but for the majority of the experience everything revolved around that prototype gun.
Each chamber has you solving a number of puzzles, but most of them weren’t as simple as clearing one room and moving on to the next. Many featured several moving parts, such as corridors to get you from room to room, and they gave a nice sense of progression by introducing puzzles that must be solved in steps. In fact, the positive sense of progression can also be said for the chambers themselves, as they got more difficult and more complex at a very reasonable pace. Even the magnet gun evolves through the game, with an upgrade part way through that allows you to do more powerful lifting at an increased rate, but not before it makes sure you are very comfortable with the concept of how it all works.
It seems like the developers spent a lot of time on the puzzles and making sure it all fit together, but that might have come at the expense of the story. The base idea of the plot is good enough, and I like that they even took the time to note how you’d been physically modified, thus explaining the lack of fall damage, but that’s about where the positives end. The remainder of the story is pretty choppy, with lots of details they never bother explaining. The Warden over the loud speaker is extremely obnoxious and one of the more annoying characters I’ve come across in a video game, and although they took the time to work in multiple endings, I felt little compulsion to see the rest of them after completing the game for the first time.
Having said that, the atmosphere within the facility is done well. I didn’t completely understand why I was climbing through what seemed to be vents between each chamber, but the dark and depressing colours paired well with the violent contraptions and instant deaths that were waiting around many corners. It’s not exactly a visual stunner, but for a game of this type I felt an adequate amount of suspense within the world the developers created, and I wish it had lasted longer than the three hours I got out of it.
Thankfully, this atmosphere and the design of most of the puzzles outweigh the negatives surrounding the plot and length, and the magnet gun itself is just a cool idea that was fun to mess around with. I would’ve liked to be able to tell the gun to focus on just one thing at a time, rather than attracting or repelling anything in the range of where it was pointing, but for the most part it was intuitive and enjoyable to use.
It’s hard to replicate Portal’s success, and in the process of following a very similar narrative to that which can be found at Aperture, Magnetic: Cage Closed loses its way on more than one occasion. Thankfully, the magnet gun is fun to use, and most of the puzzles are smartly crafted with a great sense of accomplishment, pacing and difficulty. If you’re only lukewarm on first-person puzzlers and need agripping story, better options exist, but if you enjoy the genre and can get over the short length, this is an easy recommendation.