Magnets are a mainstay of gaming, from the magnet gun in Red Faction to the magnetised tracks in F-Zero. But playing a magnet? That’s new to us. It’s an idea that we couldn’t get our heads round at first, but we can safely say that we’re converts now.
That’s because Maggie the Magnet is everything we want from a £4.19 budget title. We couldn’t ask for anything more: it’s got a great concept that’s teased into a multitude of directions by various power-ups and obstacles. It’s generous to a fault, heaving over one hundred levels onto the table – not one of them feeling like a duplicate of another. And it’s bug-free, works a treat, and is decently presented to boot. Ta-dah: we have the budget game that all budget games should be judged against.
The setup is deceptively simple. You have to get Maggie the Magnet over a finishing line. To get there, you only have one button. Yep, Maggie the Magnet is a one-button game, and at no point are other buttons or controls introduced. You press A to pull yourself towards another magnet in the room (we won’t question why a magnet is magnetising to another magnet) and that’s it.
You can decouple yourself from the magnet at any point, which becomes the main method of traversing the level. For example, say the magnet is at the top of the screen. If you’re in the bottom-left of the screen, you can hold A to magnetise, which has you soaring up to the magnet. But decoupling before you get there sends you arcing over to the bottom-right of the screen. Voila: you have now crossed a crevasse, leapt over a buzzsaw, or nudged closer to any number of treasures.
Maggie the Magnet is extremely loose with the rules of physics, which is for the best, as the levels would be impossible without. If you have any kind of momentum, you will keep on moving until you hit something. So, get a little bit of a roll going, and you can trundle slowly towards switches, collectibles and ramps. You might need a bit of patience, as Maggie isn’t the fastest in these situations, but she will get there.
With such a limited array of moves, the level-design steps in and takes the burden. There are over a hundred levels here, broken up into groups of ten, and each ten has a new mechanic to remix things suitably. Gravity-switches flip the levels upside down. Teleportation portals blink you from one end of the arena to the other. Blocks can be hustled into fans, exploding them and giving you a free run to the finishing line.
Just as you feel Maggie the Magnet’s simple concept getting a wee bit tired, in comes a new idea that reinvigorates everything. The pacing is superb, and its testament to the design that each level – introduced with a single-word title that hints at a solution – is uniquely challenging.
But Maggie the Magnet is never too challenging or overly perplexing. There’s a huge amount of generosity in how levels are unlocked: instead of working through them linearly, you can play any level that you have unlocked, and in any order. All you need to unlock them is gather roughly half of the ‘nuts’ (the metal kind, with three in every level) up to that point. You’d be hard-pressed to not gather this many nuts, just by playing through levels naturally and skipping the odd level you didn’t like.
Spicing things up nicely is a bevy of secrets. Each batch of ten levels contains a secret level, hidden behind a false wall. Find it, and you have a demonic level that stretches a mechanic to the extreme. Coming across these levels and then beating them is a nice meta-challenge.
Are there faults? A few, but none too debilitating. The nature of the magnet mechanic creates some awkward, clumsy moments that make you wish you could move Maggie, just a touch. When you are directly below the magnet, it can become frustrating to generate any kind of momentum. You have to hope that you land in such a way that you can roll a little to one side or the other, and then use that distance to generate some swing. Often, it’s easier to just restart the level, when we often didn’t want to.
And some of the more precise movements, like leaping into smaller crevices, can require a bit of trial and error. It’s rare to feel like you are truly in control of Maggie, and most levels acknowledge this: they don’t require anything like pinpoint accuracy. But, through accident or design, you can sometimes find yourself in situations that do demand more control than usual, and that can lead to long, curse-filled moments where you’re trying to thread a needle.
But these feelings arise in only a fraction of the levels, as Khud0 and Eastasiasoft get things right far more often than they don’t. They give you room to get things wrong, and are exceptionally forgiving in the level design. They know that controlling Maggie can be like picking M&Ms up with some chopsticks, so they get out of your way and support you where they can.
Oh Maggie, we found ourselves attracted to you in ways that we didn’t expect. You are a paragon of budget gaming. You nail a single, strong idea, mix it up with a variety of supporting ideas, and then stuff it to the brim with levels. Maggie the Magnet, it was a wild fling, and we regret nothing.
You can buy Maggie the Magnet from the Xbox Store