Magnetic: Cage Closed review

Magnetic-Cage-Closed

In the future, where the world is on the verge of total nuclear war, victory at all costs is the buzz phrase for warden Keene, the man in charge of Facility 7. This complex houses the preeminent research of Curiatis Corporation in the continuous cold war against an unseen enemy. On the verge of all out war, all moral complexities are outweighed by the over-riding need to stay one step ahead of the competition.

You are Prisoner XE-47623, a death row inmate transferred into the facility as a test subject in their advanced weaponry division with one goal; succeed at all costs and earn a reprieve. You are presented with a requirement to fulfill testing of the Alexandr Durov prototype  or “Magnet Gun”.

Warden Keene provides you with the physical challenges in the test environment where Dr Karen Womberg challenges you to the only form of morality that seems to exist within this world. These choices represent the multiple paths that make up the nine variable endings that can be encountered during your exploits.

Cage Closed wears its influences proudly on its sleeve. If imitation is the highest form of flattery, then Valve should be somewhat gratified. The silent female protagonist immune to fall damage, future tech weaponry, puzzle rooms, and predilection for the use of boxes; all point to a less than subtle homage to Portal, while the focus presented on moral quandaries have the mildest echo’s of The Stanley Parable.

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The Magnet Gun has two main abilities; Push and Pull. As you progress through the levels and more prototypes are released, this will be upgraded to have three power levels, though it is possible to complete the challenge rooms using only the highest power, I did find that using the lowest setting allowed for more precise action when manipulating the small boxes found throughout the levels.

Initially, the challenges focus on maneuvering boxes around and activating switches to progress, but as the weapon is upgraded, so too are the “motivational hazards”, with fire traps, spike squares and chlorine pumps requiring you to use the magnet gun in more elaborate ways. Focused use of the Push allows you to propel yourself away from active magnetic plates, and conversely Pull can drag you to platforms otherwise unreachable by standard movement. Utilising and mastering these abilities is essential to completing the trials set out in front of you.

For the most part, the game works perfectly. The physics involved in the puzzles feels natural and responsive, yet at times small frustrations occur. Occasionally the boxes fail to respond to the magnet’s pull and more than once I have found myself being attracted to the box, and typically directly into hazards, instead of the other way around. This becomes increasingly annoying during the latter stages as death typically resets the puzzle and some of the final rooms have very convoluted and elaborate solutions.

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Narrative is primarily provided from the exposition of Warden Keene and Dr Womberg, and while it does a good job of setting the scene, there just doesn’t seem to be enough substance to be found in the story especially with the specifically weak endings. Although I only observed just over half of those available, none of them appeared to have much substance.

A few other niggles also crop up, in the pacing. Loading times are a constant frustration, as each intersecting room requires a further load screen before transition. This in itself is accompanied by long sections crawling through vents and standing around in a refurbished shipping container when you are being transferred from your cell to the evaluation area.

All in all, Magnetic: Cage Closed is an accomplished puzzler that fails to emerge from the shadow of its predecessor. With finely balanced progression and competent physics it goes a long way to making up for a lack of story. For those of you missing your time with GLaDOS and looking for something to fill the gap while we wait for Valve to announce Portal 3, Magnetic: Cage Closed can sufficiently fill that void.

Thanks to Xbox and Indigo Pearl for supporting TiX

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