Magnetic: Cage Closed was born a few years ago as a student project that was finished in the course of eight days. The idea for this game came from mixing Portal with the science fiction / horror film series called Cube. But then it turns out that it was not a bad idea at all, in fact, end up giving birth to a fully fledged game that was developed in a lot more time than eight days. Some time after, publisher Gambitious stepped in and Swedish studio Guru Games made their debut in the video game industry. It was released in May 2015.
And it was not a bad debut. The game does not hide its sources of inspiration at all but at the same time it creates its own personal dimension. In Magnetic: Cage Closed you assume the role of a criminal locked up in a maximum-security prison. We do not know what her crime was, we only know that she lives in a world that believes that leaving their criminals to “cure” themselves in a prison packed with deadly traps is the sensible thing to do. The protagonist and her companions in prison are actually lab rats, which are forced to confront a series of aptitude tests, both psychological and physical. The purpose of such tests is not clear, but the prisoners are lured with the promise of gaining back their freedom if they manage to get to the bottom level of the prison.
The game’s basic mechanics are quite refreshing. Our protagonist is armed with a magnetic pistol that allows us to toy and tinker with the laws of physics in a basic way. It can be used to attract or repel objects and that allows for creating bridges through inaccessible places or pushing buttons that are unreachable through normal means. It can also be used to grapple to certain surfaces or letting go of others. It takes some practice to fully understand the way the magnetic pistol works and that requires a lot of trial and error until we are fully acquainted with this mysterious technology.
Magnetic Cage Closed tries by all means to generate an atmosphere of oppression, and weirdness through every corner that we cross. The problem is that everything ends up being way too similar to Portal. We have the accompanying voices, grim messages written on the walls, boxes and buttons, test chambers… Everything is far too similar to Portal and I regret to say that it is hardly different. Sure, the magnetic pistol alters the puzzles completely, but not even the multiple endings can fill this game with a spirit of its own.
However, the puzzles are greatly executed, and every time our captors change the rules of the game or try to make us hurry up, Magnetic shines with a light of its own. Time attack mode helps greatly to the game’s atmosphere at putting us even more pressure at the time of finishing up all the tasks at hand.
Not all creative decisions have been sharp ones. Going from a room to another requires crawling through some narrow tunnels (pretty much like in the Cube films) that disguises loading times perfectly but has the disadvantage of making us impatient and killing the mood a little bit. The same can be said about the transports. Transports are some sort of closed containers that take us to the next area. They are so claustrophobic that we can’t get an idea of where we are, and they don’t even offer small tips about what the hell is going on.
To add more variety to Magnetic: Cage Closed‘s gameplay, Guru Games implemented a “decisions” system. They are another sort of “test”, but they don’t have anything to do with intelligence or skill this time. It’s about simple choices that affect the course that our gameplay is taking; or where our memory is put to test, for example, by asking us about some previous events in the game.
Perhaps this “tests” could have been exploited better, to say the least. Somehow, some more questions about the protagonist’s past could have been answered, about her previous felonies or about the world where Magnetic: Cage Closed takes place, instead of focusing only on the tests themselves. It could have helped to better develop the story, that doesn’t shine at all until the game is about to end. The same thing could be said about the puzzles, that start out really simple and get harder and harder as the story progresses.
Despite all the cons, the comparisons, the inspiration and maybe the lack of spirit, if you enjoyed the Portal series and were left craving for more, Magnetic: Cage Closed is a game you should definitely get. It isn’t as epic or as glittery as Valve‘s title, but there is some of its magic in its environments, grimmer and less detailed, but just as claustrophobic. It may not enter the Videogames’ Hall Of Fame, but it surely does its job at making us feel trapped in a scientific maze, with the eyes of the puppet master dead set on us.
Magnetic: Cage Closed does not take shame in its obsession with Portal. The presence of the magnetic gun and a completely different story, while it makes us suffer through endless tests is both effective and engaging. It might not achieve that “magnetism” that caught the players as Valve‘s game did, but it maintains its good approach to the very end, thanks to the puzzle variety, the decision making, and multiple endings.