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Magnetis - WiiWare Review

Game Info

WiiWare | Yullaby | 1 Player / 2 Players (co-operative play) / 2-4 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now | 500 Nintendo Points
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote
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25th December 2009; By KnucklesSonic8

In the business world, the first 30 seconds are crucial; within those precious moments, one can develop a first impression that could either cost you or result in a successful sale. Although the game industry is a different environment altogether, similar principles do apply. When you hear about an indie developer with very little reputation behind it, one can't help but wonder whether or not such a company will be able to make a lasting mark amongst more well-known developers. Such a scenario describes the situation that the developers of Magnetis are confronted with, delving into WiiWare development. It's clear that Yullaby is well aware of the lasting impressions they can create from hard work and attention to quality. 

    As soon as you start the game from the Wii Menu, you're treated to an attention-grabbing Channel Intro. As the seconds roll by, you make your way to the game's main title screen where you're treated to a series of selectable modes, set to the backdrop of a factory-style background, complete with gears and hollow sound effects. Within those first few seconds, Magnetis manages to pull you in, and even gets you to attribute thoughts of high quality to the developers of the game. With its slick presentation and its captivating gameplay, Magnetis instantly manages to do what other WiiWare developers have tried very hard to do with their games: create a lasting impression.

    The gameplay takes some roots in the popular match formula of yesterday with its own creative spin. Players are placed in front of a machine that continuously issues out falling blocks in twos. Your job is to arrange the blocks to create magnetic attractions through careful placement, flipping blocks around horizontally, and controlling the conveyor belt at the bottom of the playing field. Unlike in other falling block games, you can't stack blocks on top of each other in a vertical fashion, which gets you to think a lot about block placement. The game allows players to toggle the orientation of the Wii Remote to their discretion, either vertically or horizontally. Although its best to play the game holding the Wii Remote horizontally, the controls are simple enough to follow whichever way you play.

There are a variety of blocks that you'll encounter as you play the game, however, the main gameplay shtick stays the same. You'll be tasked with combining left and right magnet blocks on the same row to accumulate points. The magnet blocks are just two examples of the types of blocks that will fall to the conveyor belt below. You'll also encounter a good number of grey blocks, which, when connected to a magnet block, will create an energy bar that will earn you more points once it becomes closed by a second magnet. It's a concept that's as unique as it is compelling, containing just enough variety to keep players coming back to it.

    What also adds some depth to the game's simple, yet unique, concept is its chain system. And therein lies one of the draws of the game. In other puzzle games of a similar nature, players are able to observe opportunities for combo chains in the spur of moment, but Magnetis features a system that almost requires you to plan in advance for maximum benefit. When you're able to execute combo multipliers of x4, x6 and even x8, it results in a satisfying experience that challenges the player to think ahead. 

    Magnetis also features a level-up system that will have the player thinking on their toes even more. As players reach higher levels, blocks will fall at a faster rate and even additional colours of magnet blocks will get added to the mix, adding a sense of challenge to the game. If you happen to combine two magnet blocks with a different colour, then you'll create negative blocks which can only be removed if you clear other blocks around it. Apparently, Yullaby was keenly aware of the fine line that developers walk along when they incorporate challenging elements into their games. At no point does Magnetis become too simple for its own good, nor does it become too frustrating to turn people off. Even after the blocks speed up in their rate of descent, the pace does eventually go back to normal once they reach a certain point, and the cycle of the level-up system begins again. There's a clear sense of balance here and it's definitely an admirable quality about the game.

As mentioned at the outset, a sense of quality permeates nearly all aspects in Magnetis and no better way can this be observed than in the game's audio compositions. Yullaby really did a fantastic job with the musical sound work in the game, and it truly is amazing. For those that love games with a retro feel or even those who loved musically-impressive games like de Blob, you can be assured that the game's music (which is available for free on the official website) will strike a chord with you. We can guarantee you that you won't tire of the unique feel that exists in the game's music; in fact, it's something to look forward to every time you get an urge to play the game. Some songs feature both funky and electronic backbeats and streams, and at one point, the music has an outer space feel to it, as if you're freely flowing through the atmosphere without a care in the world. You simply must hear it for yourself: it's the kind of music that will evoke emotions within longtime gamers and game music enthusiasts alike. Yullaby should be extremely proud of what they've done here in creating memorable music that's sure to impress almost anyone who has an appreciation for the work indie developers do.

    In the way of gameplay modes, there are 3 different ways to play when you're on your own: Normal, where you try to see how long you can survive; Time Attack where you try to get as many points as you can within a specified time frame; and Block Attack where you try to clear a certain number of blocks as quickly as possible. Although you'll be spending most of your time in the Normal mode, Time Attack and Block Attack are also good fun and they show that the developers didn't choose to neglect solo players. The game also has a nice focus towards multiplayer modes: there's a mode for Co-operative play that allows you and a friend to place blocks in tandem, a Free-for-All Battle where 2-4 players face off in an attempt to be the last one standing, as well as a Team Battle mode which allows 4 players to split in twos and see which team will come out on top. The multiplayer aspect really is one of the biggest highlights of the game, and it's great to see the game work so well in a group setting.

All of the modes in the game also contain individual leaderboards, which give something for players to shoot for in a local setting. Leaderboards serve as an especially valuable addition for single-player play, motivating players to come back and aim for the Top 3 positions on the high-score table. It's almost a given that most players that give the game a try will ponder over the lack of online play. The game works so well in local multiplayer that you can't help but feel that wi-fi multiplayer would have been an absolute blast! Although one can hope that Yullaby will look into online support for future titles, Magnetis still works as a fun, unique multiplayer title even despite the lack of online play. Furthermode, Magnetis has the ideal number of modes you would come to expect from a game priced at 500 points. That being said, there are a couple of things that could've made for a stronger package.

    For one, the approach towards co-operative play could've allowed players to play simultaneously, placing blocks on a larger playing field (a la Tetris Party), rather than alternately. It's also unfortunate that solo players don't have the ability to face computer opponents in tense battles. Even if one could only face a single CPU opponent, this would've definitely been a great addition, hence why it's rather missed here. There are also some odd design choices that aren't that important when you look at the big picture, but still are worth mentioning. For instance, it's rather odd that you're unable to quit Free-for-all battles mid-game, as this forces you to play battles all the way through before you can return to the Main Menu. Additionally, when playing a 2-player Free-for-all match, only the score is shown on the screen and this allows players to view all of the action of the game without having displays distract you in any way. But, when playing the same mode with 3 or 4 people, all of the other displays from the single-player experience return. It's too bad that they didn't go for consistency and just have the score display no matter how many people you're playing with. Magnetis features a smooth framerate when playing with one or two friends, allowing you to see gameplay clearly, even in split-screen. However, once you play a 4-player game you'll notice that the framerate does drop a notable amount, which is a bit of a shame. Again, these are only minor tidbits but if they were addressed, Magnetis would've only been that much stronger. 

Yullaby has set a really good impression with their first WiiWare release. With its unique take on the falling block concept, Magnetis provides a captivating experience, even from a single-player perspective. One can play the single-player modes for 10 to 20 minutes at a time and still feel compelled to come back for more thanks to the brilliant gameplay mechanics and the amazing musical soundtrack. Puzzle-oriented gamers who long for something more unique will likely enjoy the satisfying experience that Magnetis provides, especially in its multiplayer modes. Despite some minor flaws, the game is very solid and is most definitely worth the 500 Points. We certainly hope we haven't seen the last of Yullaby!

25/30 - Very Good

Gameplay 8/10  - Great concept based on the falling block concept; delivers an addicting yet satisfying gameplay experience
Presentation 9/10 - The game looks very, very well-made; audio outshines many WiiWare games
Enjoyment 4/5 - Fun on your own or even with a friend; concept will click with many puzzle fans; gratifying chain system
Extra Content 4/5 - Good selection of modes for the asking price; definitely a game you feel inclined to come back to again and again
Equivalent to a score of 83% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)

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Review by KnucklesSonic8

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