As with any type of video game, indie releases can be extremely hit and miss. Some are great, and end up altering the way in which we see certain genres, or even gaming itself, while others end up being forgettable, or close to it. The latter is unfortunately true of Total Monkery’s MagNets: Fully Charged, which just recently made its way to the Xbox One, after debuting on Steam back in late January.
In MagNets, players take control of a strange-looking creature with a red and blue head. He’s some sort of park ranger, you see, and finds himself caught up in a battle against bots that seem hellbent on destroying his home. At least, that’s what I got out of the game’s bland and wholly forgettable storyline, which does little other than provide a reason for the campaign to exist.
If you’re wondering why the word magnets has two capital letters here, it’s because this game’s title is a play on words that tells you what to expect. Your main job (which is pretty much all you’ll do over the course of two to three hours) is to stun, damage and ultimately destroy square-shaped robots by casting out a magnetic net. This is done by holding one of the trigger buttons, then walking over a small area. As you move, the net gets bigger, up until a certain point, and it damages everything inside of it when you let it go.
The truth is that our hero does have other abilities up his sleeve, like a ground pound slam that stuns enemies and a dash move that helps you get out of the way of danger, but they’re not all that helpful. It’s easy to get by without using either of them, and that’s part of the problem.
Simply put, MagNets: Fully Charged is repetitive, dated and uninspired. It doesn’t do anything new, or anything to stand out, and is sometimes more about luck than skill. It is, after all, possible to get hit enough by the enemy BoxBots that you’ll end up failing your mission. Sometimes those hits are tough to avoid, no matter what you do, because as you progress the amount of on-screen foes keeps going up. Things come to a head during the final boss, who’s a pain in the ass because of the sheer amount of enemies who are following you around at any given moment.
Killing BoxBots is integral to your progression, not only because they’re your nemeses, but due to the fact that the metallic scrap they leave behind must be recycled into quest items. It’s a pretty straightforward mechanic that has destroyed enemies drop yellow scrap icons as they explode. Picking these up gives you five pieces of scrap per enemy, and dropping said metal off at each level’s recycle stations will help you achieve your ultimate goal.
Most of the time, you’ll need to amass 20 to 45 pieces of scrap before the recycling bot will give you the item(s) you require, be it a door switch, a plug, a wrench or a fuse. These items must be manually picked up and installed, too, meaning that you must be thoughtful about your movements. This is especially true, because for some annoying reason, our protagonist is unable to use his net while carrying something important. If he does, then the item ends up falling to the ground, which can make it easy to lose track of them. Scrap is also lost whenever you’re hit, so keep that in mind.
Some levels will also task you with protecting important artifacts, which is something that I don’t remember being told every time it came up. This is accomplished by destroying bots before they can cause much damage, all the while dealing with your main goal of earning enough scrap to continue. The micromanaging can become a bit frustrating, as there’s lots of ground to cover and it’s impossible to be in three places at once, but things never become too difficult.
The campaign, itself is made up of four different acts, each of which contain several different missions. There’s a bit of variety to be found, as mentioned above, and you can expect to do battle against a boss at the end of each set. The bosses, themselves, are pretty basic, and most leave things to be desired. There is at least one decent and thought provoking battle, but like the rest, it ends up boiling down to using lots of nets to collect tons of scrap.
Presentation-wise, MagNets continues to be a dated affair. Its techno music isn’t half bad, but its visuals bring back memories of the N64 era. Things are very blocky, dated-looking and generally forgettable, and despite its old-fashioned art style, the game suffers from frame rate problems when large amounts of enemies are on the screen at the same time. I also encountered a couple of one-time glitches, wherein the game either took a while to load or pausing it caused things to become stuck in a mixture of the pause menu and the main options menu.
Needless to say, MagNets: Fully Charged is a tough game to recommend. I hated it at first, and though it did grow on me a bit over time, it never got to the point where I’d say that I really enjoyed playing it. Things are simply too dated, basic and bland, and though I feel bad for shitting on a game that was made by a small family studio, my job is to be honest.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with.