While platformers are generally one of my favorite video game genres, with the rise of indie games there are a lot of games released for the genre. Some games can succeed based on the creators’ track record. Usually a game has to do something new in order to truly standout though. One of the best ways to stand out is to have a unique twist on the typical platforming gameplay. This is what initially intrigued me about Super Magbot as it utilizes magnets instead of traditional jumps in order to get around. Super Magbot can be quite difficult at times, but its magnet based platforming mechanics work really well to create a fun and satisfying gameplay experience.
In Super Magbot you play as the titular Magbot. The system of Magnetia is in great danger as an angry asteroid/comet is hurtling through the system trying to gather all of the magnetic sources found on each of the planets. Will you be able to destroy the asteroid in time to save the system of Magnetia?
On the surface Super Magbot might seem like your typical 2D platformer. In some ways it is as the ultimate goal of each level is to jump over gaps and obstacles in order to reach the exit. There is one pretty significant catch though. Magbot can’t jump. Instead you will need to use the power of magnetism in order to traverse levels. Magbot has access to two types of magnets: blue (negative polarity) and red (positive polarity). Scattered around each level are a number of different plates colored red and blue. You will need to use your magnet powers along with these plates in order to traverse the world. This can be done in two ways. First opposite colors attract so if you use your blue magnet on a red plate you will be pulled towards it. Second each color repels itself. Therefore if you use the red magnet on a red plate you will be pushed away in the opposite direction of how you point your magnet. You get two charges of each magnet allowing you to use each twice before you reach solid ground which recharges both magnets.
I didn’t know exactly what to expect from Super Magbot before I started playing it. I have been a fan of platformers since I was a kid, and I always appreciate a game that actually tries to do something new. The idea of a platformer where you aren’t able to jump has been around for a while as there are a number of games that have used different twists to create a platformer without allowing players to actually jump. There are probably other games that play somewhat similar to Super Magbot, but I still think the game does a good job distinguishing itself.
In a way Super Magbot kind of feels like a puzzle game mixed with a platformer. As there is no jumping in the game, you need to use the power of magnets to do all of your jumping for you. Thus you need to figure out how to manipulate the magnets’ ability of attracting and repelling in order to move through the levels. While you are flying through the levels you need to be constantly thinking about what color magnet to use as well as choose the direction that you will point the magnet. This all has to be done on the fly as you don’t have the time to carefully analyze what you are supposed to do. On top of this between the limited charges and the level layouts, you regularly will have to switch between colors as well as attraction vs repulsion in order to complete many of the platforming sections. Death just sends you back to the beginning of the level, so you can learn as you make mistakes. The magnet mechanics in general add a really interesting mechanic to the game.
The main reason why I think Super Magbot succeeds is because the gameplay is just so satisfying. The game can become frustrating at times (more on this later), but the game works because it is really fun flying through the air due to the use of your magnets. The game is built around fast paced gameplay and it works well for the game. The game doesn’t give you time to just sit around and think about what you are supposed to do next. You need to make quick movements while in midair as you flip between the color magnet you use and how you plan on using it.
This is made even better by the game’s level design. The level designer(s) of Super Magbot deserve a lot of credit as they do a great job of coming up with unique ways of utilizing the game’s simple concept. Every so often the game introduces some new twists on the formula which are then added to the toolbox to be used along with all of the game’s other mechanics. At times the levels have some flexibility in how you solve them as there is multiple ways of getting to the next platform. Other times there is only one way that will work as the game forces you to switch between colors and modes of movement. Your openings are tight in some levels, but the levels are designed in a way that you can keep up your speed if you figure out what you are supposed to do.
While the gameplay itself is quite different, in a way Super Magbot kind of reminded me of platformers such as Super Meat Boy. Instead of going for large complicated levels, the game utilizes small levels that fit on one screen. Most of these levels can be completed within 10-30 seconds if you know what you are doing. The likelihood of you completing most of the levels on your first attempt though are very low. Instead the game relies on more of a process of you learning through your deaths. Simply put you will likely die a lot in the game. Reloads from deaths are quick and just send you back to the beginning of the level. Therefore to complete most of the levels you will keep trying new things until you make progress. Ultimately through trial and error you will eventually make it to the end of a level.
If it wasn’t clear already, I wouldn’t consider Super Magbot to be a particularly easy game. In fact the game can be quite difficult at times. For the most part the controls are really precise. Almost all of your deaths in the game will be your fault. There are times in the game where you need pretty precise timing with your magnets and you need to process information really quickly. There are some really tight gaps in parts of levels where there isn’t much room for error. Thus you will likely die a lot in the game as you train yourself to get the right timing and find the right way to approach sections of a level. I wouldn’t say that Super Magbot is the most difficult game that I have ever played, but it is far from easy either.
On its own the game’s difficulty is not necessarily a negative. It does mean that the game will not be for everyone. It is not a casual game and will likely not appeal to people who aren’t already fans of harder platformers. Unless you are an expert at these type of games, you will likely die a lot in the game. I will admit that this can be frustrating at times. You need to be aware that even though the levels are quite short, some levels will still take quite a bit of time to complete. If you aren’t really into playing a level over and over again until you perfect it, I think Super Magbot may not be the game for you. In general I think the game overcomes its frustrating moments as the gameplay feels fair where it is your fault when you fail. Those that want a real challenge though will likely really appreciate this aspect of the game as it should really challenge you.
Generally you don’t expect a whole lot from the story/theme of a game like Super Magbot. How much story could there really be about a robot that uses magnets in order to traverse gaps? Ultimately I found the game’s story to be okay, but nothing special. Basically the story of each planet is told through three cutscenes. When you arrive you will learn about the evil that is taking over the planet. You also get a cutscene before the world’s boss fight, and then the conclusion for successfully stopping them. Ultimately each of these planets’ little stories are somewhat interesting, but there is nothing particularly interesting about them where you are going to play the game because of its story.
I thought the game’s overall atmosphere was quite a bit better though. Each of the planets has it own unique style. One planet is like a forest, one is a frozen wasteland, and another is covered in fire. Each planet’s style impacts the overall background look to the levels and also comes into play with some of the new mechanics that are introduced. While all of the levels in a world have a similar look to them, in general I thought the game’s graphical style actually looked really nice. The game uses a pixel style which may not appeal to everyone, but I appreciated it.
As for Super Magbot’s length it will depend on the individual player. I haven’t completed the game at this point so I don’t have a total length for how long it will even take me to beat the game. The length of the game is likely going to depend on your skill with these type of non-traditional platformers and how much you care about gathering all of the collectibles in each level. While I don’t have a definitive number, it appears that the game has four main worlds. Each world has around 27 levels. If you could somehow beat all of the levels within just a couple attempts, the game likely wouldn’t take that long to beat. That is unlikely to be the case though as you like will die quite a bit before you ultimately succeed. After you complete each world additional more difficult bonus levels are also unlocked. There are also two collectibles in most of the levels which are placed in locations which make the platforming even more challenging if you want to collect them. I don’t have a definitive length for Super Magbot, but if it sounds like your type of game, I see no reason why you wouldn’t get your money’s worth out of it.
While I had high hopes for Super Magbot, I didn’t know exactly how the game would turn out. The premise of using magnets instead of jumps for the platforming element was probably the thing that intrigued me the most about the game and is probably the thing that really makes the game. The magnet mechanics actually work a lot better than I was expecting. It does take some time to adjust to using magnets in order to jump, but once you get over the initial learning curve it works really well. In a way the gameplay kind of feels like a puzzle as you have to figure out which color magnet to use in each situation as well whether to use it to attract or repel your character from a platform. The gameplay might seem simple but in action it really isn’t as you need to adjust quickly in order to succeed. I think the game succeeds because this gameplay is just so satisfying and the level design compliments the mechanics so well. You will die a lot in the game, but it is really satisfying when you are able to finally beat a tough level. The game may not be for everyone though as some levels can be quite difficult where it becomes a little frustrating as you die over and over again just to make a little progress.
My recommendation for Super Magbot comes down to your thoughts on the premise and more difficult platformers in general. If the idea of using magnets to platform or games where you will die over and over again doesn’t sound all that interesting to you, the game will likely not be for you. If the premise interests you at all though and you are intrigued by the premise, you should really enjoy Super Magbot and should seriously consider picking it up.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Astral Pixel and Team17 for the review copy of Super Magbot used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.