Sunday, October 1, 2017

Magrunner: Dark Pulse

Playing The Turing Test reminded me that GOG had at some point in the past given away for free a similar, Portal-like puzzle platformer, and that I had meant to maybe play it once I had run out of game backlog.

Magrunner: Dark Pulse was developed Frogwares and published by Focus Home Interactive for release in 2013. I do not know why they were giving it away in 2014, though it is not the most expensive game in the first place either. But I did not mind getting free 8 hours of entertainment from it -- Magrunner is unusually long for a game of its genre.

Portal with magnets

The puzzle gimmick in Magrunner, as per its name, is magnetism -- or at least something related to it. You get a magtech glove that is able to power objects from a distance with two different colors. Charges of the same color attract and different repel each other.

Coming from The Turing Test, I cannot help but compare Magrunner to it. In my opinion, Magrunner comes easily on top when it comes to how interesting the games' respective puzzles are. I suppose that is partly thanks to the mechanic simply being more imaginative but also because the puzzles have more moving parts. Magrunner has platforming and plenty of sections that requiring timing and haste.

I managed to get through the whole game without looking anything up even though few times finding what I was missing took some time. Towards the end there was also one level -- maybe the second to last, one where you are ascending constantly -- where I felt like I was getting through it in an unintended way with how unrefined the solutions seemed. Getting on a thin and moving vertical object while carrying a cube felt like taking a shortcut.

Surprise Lovecraft

Portal-like games struggle to come up with a plausible narrative -- why would anyone build a complex so huge to house multiple puzzle chambers. It is just not believable. Magrunner is no exception to this but that does not stop it from trying.

I found the game's writing terrible. Like its creative commons licensed music use, the story is cheap. It has illogical jumps and the protagonist is rather unlikable too, no small thanks to the voice acting.

I have to say though that the Lovecraftian turn the game took, was totally unexpected as I had not read anything about the game beforehand. And even then I thought the monsters were going to stay as statues to add some weird Cthulhu-side theme. But no, Magrunner has actual hostile creatures running about in the endgame. I appreciated the change they brought. With higher production value, the game could have been pretty great.

Looks all right

Magrunner runs on Unreal Engine 3 and looks about it too. Anti-aliasing is terrible and there are a lot of loading screens (albeit short). The early levels had some fancy-looking reflective surfaces I do not recall seeing in an UE3 title before, however.

The FOV slider could have used numbers too. PCGamingWiki says it goes up to 110 degrees which is usually too much for me but I ended up maxing the slider without getting the very noticeable fisheye effect that should come with so wide FOV.

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