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Magrunner: Dark Pulse preview

We take a look at a new action-puzzle game inspired by Portal.

Magrunner: Dark Pulse is a puzzle-action game that is heavily inspired by Valve’s Portal. The game will be published by Focus Home Interactive and is developed by 3AM Games (Frogwares). It’s due for release on PC next week (20th June) and will also be released on XBLA and PSN in September this year. We’ve been spending some time with the beta build on PC which includes 12 of the 40 levels you’ll find in the final game.

The story is set in the future, in the year 2050, in a world with advanced technology is mixed with H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. The powerful Gruckezber Corporation has created a social network called LifeNET which has connected everyone on the planet. Their latest venture is the development of a new, clean source of energy called Mag technology. They plan to use it to power deep space exploration allowing humanity to spread across space.

They plan to recruit astronauts from the populace and so set up a special training facility to vet the potential candidates. You play as Dax Ward, a gifted orphan, who is amongst the Gruckezber candidates known as Magrunners. Dax is also helped along by his mutant friend Gamaji and robot dog Newton.

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Candidates must take part in the Magtech deep space exploration program which is held at a Gruckezber facility. This features a series of training rooms designed to test the candidates Magtech knowledge. The training room setup all feels a lot like Portal where you enter a room then solve a series of puzzles in order to access the exit. Magrunner doesn’t feature a portal gun though, instead you have a Magtech glove.

The Magtech glove is able to polarize objects with a red or green magnetic charge via the left and right mouse buttons. Items you can polarize are easily identified and they glow the colour of the charge you give them. In the levels we played there were cubes, platforms and boost pads to charge up. You can also remove the charge an object has to kill the magnetic field.

The puzzles are all based around how magnets and magnetism works. Give two objects the same charge and they will attract or opposite charges will repel. The type of object affects the type of magnetic field that it gains. Objects such as cubes gain a spherical field and laser paths for platforms a cylindrical field. Pressing the F key allows you to view all the magnetic fields so that you can see which objects affect each other. Combining objects with the same charge also boosts their combined magnetic field.

These simple mechanics are easy to learn but provide you with a surprising number of possibilities. For example you can stand on a platform and give it the same charge as the end point to move towards it or the opposite charge to move away. You can give a cube a charge and then move a platform past it to pick it up. Cubes can also be used to get around so you can stand on one on top of a boost pad and then give it the opposite charge to fly into the air.

The levels start out easy but soon become complex and require some head scratching and trial and error to get right. One of the more complicated levels had us collecting four small cubes from around a level using a variety of our new found magnetics skills. We then could combine them into a bigger cube to solve the next stage of the puzzle. The game also requires some careful movement and platform jumping to get around.

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The game is powered by the Unreal 3 engine and everything looks great. The test rooms all have a really clean sharp look about them with great use of colour. The floors are super shiny allowing you to see the environment reflecting in them.

We’ve really enjoyed our time with Magrunner: Dark Pulse which is shaping up to be a fantastic game. There’s a decent story behind it, lovely graphics and satisfying puzzles. As you progress the story begins to take a darker direction, which includes strange creatures to contend with, and we’re intrigued to see more. If you’re a fan of Portal then we’d recommend sticking Magrunner: Dark Pulse at the top of your gaming wish list.

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