Magnetica is a puzzle game developed by Mitchell Corporation for the Nintendo DS as part of the Touch! Generations series. In Europe Magnetica is called Actionloop. Magnetica has a counterpart on WiiWare, called Magnetica/Actionloop Twist. If you have ever played a PopCap game, you’ll instantly recognise Magnetica as a Zuma copycat.
As far as puzzle games go, Magnetica is pretty standard. It’s got a couple of modes to it, Survival, Quest and Puzzle. Who knew that a puzzle game could feature a Puzzle mode! Magnetica also features multiplayer, single cart multiplayer I may add, so only one person needs to buy the game. As far as it copying Zuma, it’s not an exact clone.
As with Zuma, Magnetica involves you creating groups of three or more marbles. The marbles roll along a track that can twist and turn, obscuring your aim. The aim to to clear all the marbles before they reach the end of the track, and you subsequently lose the level. Using the magnetic properties of the marbles you can use marbles to pull other marbles away from the “Doom-Hole” at the end of the track. Bonus items attached to marbles can, for example, temporarily slow down the rate the marbles advance or cause all marbles of a color to disappear, these are especially handy. The trick is to chain them though, clearing specific sets so that the sets either side will clear when they collide.
There are ups and downs to Magnetica, and to be honest; mostly downs. The gameplay is done fantastically, but the blinding visuals and annoying music bring down the game a fair bit. It’s got plenty of modes though, so it should keep you busy for a long time, if you can stand playing it.
You can describe Magnetica in one word; vibrant. Everything about it is bright and polished, dazzling colours will blind you as you squint at the DS screen in an effort to combine the colours correctly. This can be an annoyance at first, but after 15 minutes you start to get a serious headache. The vibrancy combined with the light off the DS screen itself is just too much for my eyes to handle. If you’re into bright games though, you’ll love Magnetica, as the colour range is vast and extravagant.
You’ll get some interesting music whilst you play though; and by interesting I mean painful. If you’re going to play Magnetica, you’re better off doing it with the sound muted. Bouncy annoying music echoing through the DS speakers does nothing but frustrate you as you try and navigate that perfect shot through a tiny gap in the marble train. Its sink or swim time, and just as you’re about to make the perfect shot, the game will emit a high pitched musical squeak, throwing off your shot and causing you to lose.
The gameplay mechanics of Magnetica are pretty flawless, The DS touchscreen is used to ‘flick’ the marbles from their launch point to their destination with the stylus, depending on the strength of the flick, the marbles will move slower or faster across the screen. It’s pretty accurate and very simple to learn. There is a certain level of mastery in shooting marbles through tight gaps in stressful situations, it can take a lot of game time to master the flick.
The game modes in Magnetica are enthralling for the most part. On top of the main Survival mode, where you just play as long as you can, you’ve got the respective Quest and Puzzle modes. Quest mode requires you to clear sets of marbles under certain conditions, and Puzzle needs you to clear the screen using a set amount of marbles, forcing you to think about how you’re going to chain them.
Magnetica also features a multiplayer option, there’s no Computer Controlled opponent, and considering the two screens this is surprising. However there is Single Pack multiplayer with a friend. You main goal is to destroy marbles quicker than your opponent, while hindering their progress using attack power ups. In general, the rule is that the more marbles you destroy, the more blockers appear on your opponent’s screen, and the harder it becomes for them, so if you can find a player of equal ability it’s a great deal of fun.
The game also allows you to unlock 10 additional stages using data from the game “Polarium Advance”, unfortunately not the DS version, which is one of the better puzzle games on the DS. Magnetica also comes packaged with a DS rumble cartridge, but it’s not really worth trading battery life for the slight shake when the marbles clash.
Overall, Magnetica is a good puzzle game greatly overshadowed by painful presentation, but for less than full retail price it’s definitely worth a look. While it doesn’t hold the charm of puzzle games such as Zookeeper or Meteos, as a cheap alternative it does the job. It’s another puzzle game that takes advantage to the DS’s touch controls to great success, and it should be a title that will stay in your collection for a while.
Average menus and blinding colours make this painful to look at
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Great touch implementation allows for fun and frantic gameplay
Annoying music and sound effects will eventually have you muting it
As any puzzle game you'll keep on striving for that high score
Solid gameplay, but let down on almost everything else.