A platformer without a jump button, Super Magbot can be devilishly difficult yet oh so satisfying. The Finger Guns Review.
Platformers kind of have to have a jump button, right? It’s the way that every major platforming franchise from Aladdin to Zool have allowed their players get from A to B. Jumping from platform to platform. But what if you take that ability away? That’s the novel concept of Super Magbot, a platformer that does away with jumping, from developers Astral Pixel and publishers Team17.
“But there have been other platformers without a jump button” I hear you say. That’s true. Games like Tinertia and VVVVV have nailed the concept of a platforming game without a jump function. It’s the innovative way that Super Magbot does this – replacing jumping with magnetic attraction and repulsion to force the protagonist around each level – that makes it stand out in the crowded platforming genre.
The premise: The universe is under threat. A purple blob-like evil is hunting down the fragments of various planets in order to destroy it all. In order to save themselves, the planet Megtek sends out the Super Magbot in order to retrieve the fragments before the evil entity does.
It’s a simple framework that gets the narrative from A to B. Each planet that the Super Magbot lands on provides its own little story but it never really gets above a mild motivation to continue. “Oh no, my husband has been frozen in ice. Please help?” for example.
Thankfully, the game play and mechanics themselves are reason enough to play Super Magbot. The aim of every level in the game, each contained within a single frame, is to collect the fragment that’s at the end. In order to do so, you’ll need to cross a myriad obstacles and hazards that stand between the bot and the end point.
This is where the magnetic powers of the Super Magbot come in. Protruding from the robot is a bar of light. This bar can direct red positive or blue negative magnetic pulses with a press of the Left and Right shoulder buttons on the Switch. Situated around each level are blue and red magnets. By directing the lightbar with the right thumbstick and shooting magnetic pulses at these magnets, you can propel the robot around the level. The physics work exactly like magnets do; Shoot a blue magnetic blast at a blue magnet and it’ll repel you while shooting a red blast at a blue magnet will attract the robot. It’s vice versa for red magnetic blasts, as you might expect.
Using these mechanics, you’ll be repelling the magbot into the air then attracting it to other platforms, pulling yourself over spike traps and swinging over gaps. Accidentally pull yourself into a hazard and you’ll be sent back to the start of the level.
Super Magbot is described by developers Astral Pixel as a “precision platformer” and that’s no exaggeration. You’ll need lightning fast reflexes and a constant awareness of what button you’ll need to press next. The Magbot moves swiftly and with precision that comes through in the twitchy nature to the control. While almost all the levels in this game will takes less than 2 minuets to complete on a successful run, you’ll likely fail many, many times on the road to that success. I certainly did. There’s a real need for accuracy too; while propelling the robot through the air, magnetic blasts are limited to only 4 – 2 red and 2 blue – until the mech touches terra firma once again. Once it touches down, the charges are reset. This adds an element of puzzling to the platforming – when you’ve got options of which polar power to use, you’ve got to plan out which to use so you don’t run out of a colour you’ll need later.
To assist with the accuracy, Super Magbot grants a very brief period of slow motion when a trigger button is held down. While this should make the game easier, it takes a lot of time to get used too. The slow-mo gives the player time to aim their lightbar in the correct direction but the delay in the magnetic blast means you’ve got to adjust for it. Personally, I found this actually made the game more difficulty at times. I stuck with simply tapping the button to send off the magnetic blast.
As you progress through the game, Super Magbots adds new mechanical elements that you’ll have to deal with. On the first world, there are magnetically charged platforms that fall away a few seconds after being touched. On the second world, an ice planet, there’s bounce pads and reduced friction on the floor which means you’ll be skidding after you land. Here you’ll also find magnetised bubbles that can hold the magbot in place temporarily before it pops. In the third world, the fire world, some platforms are so hot that they burst into flames once they’re touched.
The difficulty curve that’s built up with the addition of these mechanics, each one joining the network of existing ones, is mostly steady. Aspects are added in straightforward ways before becoming more complex. There are a few difficulty spikes with singular levels offering up a tricky series of magnetic obstructions that’ll cause a few furrowed brows. Thankfully, even if you get stuck on a level, that doesn’t mean you’ll get completely stuck. A trio of levels are unlocked at any one time which means you can skip a few that give you too much of a headache.
Waiting at the end of each world in Super Magbot is a boss. These represent a culmination of everything you’ll have learned during that game world. They’re fast paced
levels that’ll really put you through your paces. These are some of the only progress blocking levels – you’ll need to complete these to move on. This also unlocks a smaller, tougher sample of levels from that world.
All of this is presented in a charming 16-bit art style that’s reminiscent of the SNES and Mega Drive heyday. It’s a clear game to read with sharp visuals and pleasing effects. That’s capped off by a pleasant chiptune-esque soundtrack that helps give the theme of each game world more character.
Super Magbot is a challenging game. It’s on par with the likes of Super Meatboy and 10 Second Ninja X in terms of difficulty. Simply getting through some of the levels will be a real test. I punched the air a few times towards the end of the game when I finally nailed a level that was giving me a real problem. After being pretty frustrated, finally besting a level is really quite gratifying. For those that like competition, there are leaderboards for each level based on time to completion. There’s also additional collectables in every level which are situated in teasing but dangerous areas. If you want to 100% this game, there’s many, many hours of play time here.
A precision platformer with a novel, magnetically charged traversal method, Super Magbot is a quality game. The storyline is a little lackluster but challenging yet satisfying game design makes for a very morish experience.
Super Magbot is available now on Nintendo Switch (review platform) and PC.
Developer: Astral Pixel
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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