December 23, 2010

Justifying Steam Sales: Droppin’ Magnets

It’s Steam Sale season again, and once again I am simply overwhelmed with how many Steam Sale games I pick up and then never play. Well, I’m going to try to start turning that around. I’m going to give some of these cheap Steam games a short shot, and see how I feel about them. Then, I will write about them. It’s the perfect plan! Probably. I’m pretty sure it’s something like the perfect plan.

Anyway, Magnetis is 50 cents on Steam right now. That’s cheaper than most stupid iPhone games. I had to pick it up and try it.

The problem a lot of “speed” puzzle games have is that they’re always in the shadow of Tetris. Tetris is just so fucking good! How are you going to make your game better than Tetris?

Magnetis is not better than Tetris, but it certainly isn’t bad. Mediocre, maybe, if you have that Tetris puzzle game itch, and have 50 goddamn cents, you might as well pick it up.

Basically, the field of play is a little circular conveyor belt. If you keep holding one direction, the cubes on the belt come back around the other side. From the top, two-cube sets drop. You can swap the order of these two cubes as they drop. There are three types of blocks: generic, grey “conductor” blocks, left side magnets, and right side magnets. The idea is to connect two magnets of the same color with connector blocks to clear them.

Play starts out really slow. You have to “level up” a few levels before the game starts throwing you magnets of a second color, and it’s kind of nap-inducing until they do. Once a third color appears, though, you get fucked pretty quickly. The difficulty comes with accidentally filling a whole row. Conductors slowly disappear, but if they’re hooked to a magnet, they disappear even slower. If you fill up a row, that row is kind of lost for a long, long time. This is how you can accidentally fill up the whole screen and then lose.

There’s nothing wrong with the game, as I said. It just doesn’t have that constant “searching for the pattern” quality that awesome games like Tetris Attack has, nor a set strategy that you’re desperately trying to keep going, like the gameplay of classic Tetris. You’re just not thrown enough different types of blocks to really make you juggle, and when you are, the small field of play just isn’t enough to handle it, or so it felt to me. Then again, I’ve only played a couple of rounds. Maybe I don’t “get” the game yet.

But no, seriously, the game is fucking 50 cents. For 50 cents, this is a solid little puzzler. There are better out there, of course. I mean, if you have an iPhone, Drop7 is currently a dollar, and you can’t go wrong with that. But if you want something Tetris-y, then hey, give it a shot. I mean, it costs less than a can of soda, for fuck’s sake.

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