Precision platformers. You either love them for their challenge or rage at them for… well, their challenge. Super Magbot had me yo-yoing from one extreme to the other with its clever game mechanics, tight level layouts and ever increasing difficulty. Fans of the genre will love this as its a unique entry into the category.
Magbot is all about his magnetic arms. They work like magnetic poles with red and blue lights (symbols are added for colour accessibility) that you control separately as a positive and negative charge. This mechanic is used for everything. You can’t jump, pressing the negative arm on a negative pad will act like a bounce pad, blasting you into the air. Then you’ll be using the opposites attract theory to catch a positive charged block in the ceiling to hook you in. The positive and negative push and pull is what propels you around and it takes a lot of time to get your left and right brain in gear for it. Initially, levels are laid out nicely so you are always opposite attracts or using samesies to bounce. By the time you complete level 20 though, you’ll need to flip between it all on the fly. Half of my deaths were in panic because I would push not pull or vice versa. It’s all part of the pattern learning.
Thankfully as you move around a beam of light shows your magnetic distance. You aim this with the right analogue stick and as things move so quickly, the other half of my deaths came down to poor aim. Often I’d bounce or pull on the wrong angle and hit a hazard or miss a wall by falling short. As per most precision platformers, the saws, spikes, lava, fire and enemies are all there to catch you out. It can be really daunting. Thankfully, levels are all relatively short and an easy mode allows you a mid level checkpoint. I’m not ashamed that half way through world 2, I turned it on. Super Magbot is brutal. The majority of this I felt was my own fault but occasionally I did feel like my aim arc didn’t always seem to match where I was ending up – usually a bit short if I spotted it. The other thing you can do to make the game easier is turn on an unlimited jetpack. This allows you to hover in mid air as you select your next move. You’ll still die a fair bit but it takes the rhythmic panic away from you and can be something you can then turn off over time.
Bosses change things up and move away from single screen levels into a chase events. These show off the excellent pixel art and 16-bit aesthetic perfectly. The soundtrack is equally fun too. It is just as well because Super Magbot loves you to replay levels to improve you time and collect special cubes for bonuses. I also loved that beyond the initial levels for each world, there’s an unlockable extreme mode where the world is broken. These are extra challenging levels and I must admit I still haven’t conquered them all.
One thing that I noticed when playing Super Magbot is how my brain muscles needed to recalibrate every time a new mechanic comes into play. Everything revolves around the magnetic poles but different types of blocks do different things. Each tiome a new one was added I found myself really slow down to a crawl as if I was having to relearn the game again. I’d pick back up to speed again over a few levels but this isn’t a game where you get steadily better all the way through. You’ll have peaks and troughs of skill and you need to put in the time to get the maximum rewards.
Whilst Super Magbot handed my ass back to me on a plate, I received it with a happy smile over and over again. It is a great example of tricky difficulty done right. You can reduce it down to be more manageable if you want to but speed runners will want to go full beans ahead to reach the dizzy heights of the online leaderboards. Super Magbot deserves to be recognised in the high tiers of precision platformers. Fans of Celeste and Super Meat Boy – come on in.
Review copy provided by publisher.
Unique magnetic gameplay feels fresh and engrossing.
Does an awful lot with one simple idea.
Lovingly 16-bit pixel art and chiptune soundtrack - both expertly crafted.
Accessibility for colour-blind players and difficulty easing options can help lighten the load to stop the frustration...
... but you will be frustrated and rageful. Quite often.
Sometimes the arc of where you think you'll end up isn't the reality.
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