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Magnetic Joe - DSiWare Review

Game Info
Magnetic Joe

DSiWare | Subdued Games / Most Wanted Entertainment | 1 Player / 2 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now (North America) | 500 Nintendo Points
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5th May 2011; By KnucklesSonic8

I've lost count of how many games seem to adopt a good formula but don't play out exactly as hoped. And this is definitely another game to add to my list. Magnetic Joe makes use of a concept that isn't exactly unique, but I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt anyway. Sadly, the game won't reach your expectations of what a fun game should be if you're over the age of 12. This is the sort of game that gets old pretty fast which, in actuality, works against the extra amounts of content the developers put into this release.

    First and foremost, the developers have implemented a straight-forward system that would be easy for just about anyone to understand. You control the movement of a special ball using magnetism, activating special switches to lead him to the end of each level. There are a series of obstacles to watch out for as you make your way to the goal, including spike traps, web-dangling spiders, rats and more. These obstacles aren't major impediments to your progress so long as you keep in mind how much of an effect gravity has on your character's movement patterns. It's a simple concept for sure, and because of the clear absence of depth, the execution can be considered to be on the same level.

    The controls are very user-friendly, requiring only a single input to play (with a few exceptions). Those who use the D-Pad need only worry about pressing a single button to activate nearby switches. However, because there are occasional gimmicks that require you to tap the Touch Screen, most will probably prefer using the stylus. There's also a map on the top screen that shows different icons for enemies, power-ups and the actual finish line. Keeping things accessible makes this very easy to jump into regardless of how old you are, which is fine until you realize what you're actually in for. 

There are more than 80 stages in all, set across a mix of different worlds. Each environment you travel to will switch things up a bit with the enemies you'll encounter and the overall aesthetic. Further, your character will also don a different accessory with each passing area, like a miner's hat or a mummy wrap. Not that this element will make you feel that much different about the game once you get to playing, but I suppose it's a decent addition. 

    When it comes to gimmicks, a number of elements pop up as you progress but these don't appear that often. For example, large crescent-shaped disks fit Joe inside a small slot which can be rotated, allowing him to advance on the opposite side. There are also wooden platforms operated by a rope and pulley system, requiring you to turn a crane in a rotary motion. And then, in another level, you'll travel around in a mine cart for some time. This may sound fun on paper, but it's actually not. Going too fast will send Magnetic Joe flying out of the cart and crashing to his death. As a result, you're forced to use the magnetic switches in a slow fashion making this segment needlessly boring.

    More regular visitors to each of the levels are the power-ups that affect your ability to control Joe in an orderly fashion. The jetpack item, for example, allows him to temporarily move around stages without the use of magnets. Using the D-Pad, players can try to pilot the magnetic ball with some degree of control. There's also an item that transforms the red and blue ball into a bite-sized form, enabling him to sneak into narrow paths. Even with these and other elements, I wasn't having fun with these little transformations. I'm not sure if it was because they felt so generic or if it was because the game already felt so dull, but either way, they don't help add a more positive tone.

To be frank, I didn't derive enjoyment out of playing this game at all. I found the level designs to be basic, if not repetitive in nature. Bouncing off walls or rolling down ramps at a steady clip just wasn't exciting to me, let alone seeing Joe glide across linear environments. Even with the little changes here and there, I couldn't get past the overall feeling of mediocrity. I felt that the game keeps things very safe. There are little changes here and there with the actual "platforming" elements to try and keep things interesting, but not by much. 

    Here's the thing, though: Magnetic Joe is packed with some good content for 800 Nintendo Points. First, you get plenty of levels each with three different gameplay styles to play under and two different difficulties to test your skills. There's the 'Classic' race-to-the-goal option, a 'Collect' mode where you go off in search of golden artifacts, and a 'Time' mode where you try to set a new best time on each of the stages. In each of these modes, you have trophies to collect, which should theoretically keep you busy for the whole game. Plus, there's also a multiplayer mode where you can engage in a wireless race to the finish. It's not bad value at all but really, it's all for naught when the game itself isn't even fun to play. What's more, there's not much here to keep you engaged as time goes on, leaving you with feelings of boredom as you wade through each level. And so, even with the extra content, it's hard to justify purchasing an $8 title that suffers from this kind of a problem. 

    When it comes to presentation, there isn't a whole lot to say. The visuals work fine as they are, and the menu layouts are easy enough to follow. The music is forgettable though, to the point that it gets kind of annoying after a while. I also thought the main character totally lacked personality and felt weak conceptually. The odd time when you would hear him yell "Yahoo!" does serve a purpose of confirming that he's not just a lifeless inanimate object. But I don't think anyone will really find any sort of connection with this guy. Even in the area of presentation, Magnetic Joe continues to earn itself an all-around unappealing image of mediocrity.

    There's nothing about Magnetic Joe that makes me feel like recommending it to anyone. Kids might be able to find some fun tucked away in here, but I still think they could do much better than this. Overall, it's a dull game that's neither worth your time nor your $8.

15/30 - Below Average

Gameplay 5/10 - Totally mediocre affair, basic level designs, user-friendly controls, power-ups aren't that interesting, some gimmicks hold the game back
Presentation 5/10 - Forgettable music, visuals are decent, main character is generic, different themed environments
Enjoyment 1/5 - No fun to be derived if you're over the age of 12, dull and boring, kids might be able to have some fun with it but it will be limited
Extra Content 4/5 - Good amount of content to sustain interest including multiplayer races, not worth the $8 price tag because of the lack of enjoyment

Equivalent to a score of 50% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

Review by KnucklesSonic8
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