Anyone that plays Magrunner: Dark Pulse will immediately want to make a comparison to Portal. This comparison is warranted though. Both games are played in the first person perspective where you must figure out how to solve puzzles in different rooms to progress out of said rooms, with a gradual increase in difficulty as you progress through the rooms. Instead of using portals to navigate through these different rooms, you have access to magnets that can be used to open doors, propel you through a level, or move platforms. The end result is a wonderful addition to the first person puzzle genre.
Magrunner is set in the 2050 where a global company called Gruckezber Corporation has selected seven participants to make their way through the companies deep space training program. You play as Dax, a young, brilliant scientist who lost his parents at a young age. Dax was taken in by a mutant named Gamaji, and will serve as Dax’s mentor during the training program. As Dax progresses through the program, he learns that there is something sinister out there trying to destroy him.
Similar to Portal, Dax has a device attached to his right hand that can give certain objects in the training rooms a magnetic charge to either attract or repel other objects. You have two different colored charges that you can use, and unlike real magnet physics, alike charges are attracted to each other while opposite charges repel objects. Pressing a button will reveal the magnetic influence of charged objects, which can help out immensely in later puzzles. And trust me, you’ll need the help.
The puzzles in Magrunner: Dark Pulse can be quite challenging at times. One gripe that I had with the game is that it will hide solutions to puzzles. While this technique is nothing new, the disadvantage here is that certain areas of a room will be hidden, and most of the time the objects you need to solve a puzzle are in those areas. It can be pretty frustrating when you think you have explored every square inch of a room and have given up hope, only to find out that a certain box you need is in a hidden room underneath the floor. It feels like a cheap way to increase the difficulty of some puzzles, and it is not necessary as the puzzles can be challenging to begin with.
Magrunner begins to show what separates it from other puzzle games after the first hour. As the levels begin to physically fall apart, you are transformed into a Lovecraftian nightmare, with Cthulhu taking center stage. The addition of Cthulhu changes the pace up a little bit, and sets Magrunner further apart from other puzzle games. I wasn’t really digging the Lovecraftian aspects of the game at first, but as it continued I thought that it improved. At first it feels (and looks) silly, but as you learn more about Dax’s past, the story gets better.
The game was built using the Unreal Engine, and it looks great. The first part of Magrunner has a very clean look to it, with prominent use of bright colors, along with white, modern designs. As the game progresses and the levels begin to fall apart, the game switches to a darker color palette, giving a sense of the world starting to rundown. The use of colors in the game is incredibly important, as that determines the magnetic charge of objects. Sometimes it is difficult to see the influence of a magnetic charge, but changing your perspective can fix it. The voice acting is done well, and the music fits the atmosphere of the game perfectly.
As someone who enjoyed both Portal games, I was afraid that Magrunner would be a Portal ripoff, but it does enough to stand out on its own. The use of magnets in the game led to some challenging puzzles, the Cthulhu mythos is a nice addition, and it is a good looking game as well. Other than using cheap tricks to make some puzzles more difficult, and some minor technical problems, Magrunner: Dark Pulse is a solid game that will be enjoyed by puzzle game enthusiasts.
Magrunner: Dark Pulse was developed by Frogwares and published by Focus Home Interactive for the PC on June 20. A copy of the game was provided to us by Focus Home Interactive for reviewing purposes.