Magnetic: The Game of Games

Developer/Publisher:  Peter Hewitt
Year Released:  2003

Review by Rosemary Young (April, 2003)

Magnetic is subtitled The Game of Games and so it is, plus a selection of puzzles, all designed to test your mind and hone your powers of observation and strategic thinking.

Fans of Xiama are in for a treat with this second serving from Peter Hewitt. It has similarities to Xiama such as a photographic Australian setting riddled with challenges, but it is also different with more structure, more emphasis on winning games and with an overriding story to pull the experience together.

Pick your partner
When you start the game you have a choice of taking one of six golden helpers along. Pick one and it will escort you into the game, and into the rain. It all begins with a storm, you stand there in a downpour but it clears up nicely to allow you to explore the tropical paradise of Magnetic Island.

Your chosen helper will be with you all the way. It will sit at the bottom left hand corner of the screen where a simple click opens a book that will gradually fill with a wealth of useful information. First up you learn the easy mouse controls. Just click on the arrow to move around, if no arrow is available then a right mouse click will allow you to escape from that particular scene or challenge. Later, as you progress, you will also read about the story of the strange games that led the locals astray and seem to have hung around to haunt your adventure.

More help, please?
But there is more to your helper than this. It will also give you the occasional hint as you pick away at a puzzle or try to win a game. You have to try first though, and when it sees you are in a bit of trouble it will dish out a clue. That's all you get on some occasions but on others there's more help on offer. Really the amount of help you get varies just like the difficulty of the games and puzzles. Of course if you solve something in super quick time you won't need or get any help, but if you dither around there's sure to be some little hint forthcoming.

Your trusty helper also tells you about the Magic Teleport that allows you to flit from one game challenge to another once you have found them. Very useful as you don't need to win challenges in sequence, you can try another challenge and return to the one you are doing later on. But as you are playing against an 'opponent' you will forfeit one scoring point if you leave a game suddenly. Each game challenge is structured so that you need to win eight games or eight points in order to progress or claim mastery over the challenge. You are then awarded a Golden Frame in the Magic Teleport screen.

Games and Puzzles
As for the games themselves, well there are all sorts. Some are like checkers and chess and other board games. There's a variation on noughts and crosses or tic tac toe (but much harder from my point of view), a word game, one concerned with measuring liquids, another based on an ancient game called Nim, and variations on this theme where you must make the last move according to your well thought out strategy. There are 16 game challenges in all, some were completely new to me, some familiar, some quite easy, some definitely NOT so easy, but they all require a good strategy to win and figuring out the strategy can take some time.

In fact working out how to play the games can be a puzzle in itself as the rules are not spelt out. The way to learn is to observe what happens as you play. This is one component of the puzzling in Magnetic, and there is another as each game challenge is locked away by a puzzle that has to be solved before you can even begin to tackle it. These puzzles are also quite varied and once more it's up to you to work out what needs to be done to solve them. They include teasers inviting you to recognise musical excerpts, number sequences and patterns, there's a puzzle box and a dominos inspired puzzle, etc. Some of these puzzles simply allow you to access a game challenge whilst others give a clue as to where you might find the associated challenge. If you search carefully there are even a few puzzle clues to be found amongst the bushes and boulders as you explore Magnetic Island.

So there is a lot to do in this package and a good few hours of playing time. I have to admit I have not won every challenge yet but I have tested them all for this review. If you are anything like me and enjoy this kind of gameplay then Magnetic is a fitting name for this game. I've been going back to it repeatedly for the last week, replaying games I've mastered just for the fun of it (and to boost my confidence a bit) before moving on to those that still elude me.

Check this one out if you like puzzling and game challenges. With six helpers, six people can have their own game running because each little golden critter keeps a record of your progress and saves it for your return. So you can compete overall against a friend or family member although you might also want to play along with someone because two heads might be better than one for some of the games.

Of course there is also Magnetic Island to explore. As you amble around there are bird and bush sounds in the background and on a couple of occasions you can investigate a close up view of a wildflower (I wish there were more of these). And there's also the background music, wonderful if you are partial to the piano ... let me see ... Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Brahms and more ... but whatever happened to Liszt?

Magnetic comes on one CD that can be loaded onto your hard drive for faster play. You can buy it through the Magnetic Website where there is also a message board if you just happen to need a hint! rating:  

Copyright © Rosemary Young 2003. All rights reserved.

System Requirements:
Pentium 166 or faster, 32 MB RAM, 2 MB Video Card or higher. Any Windows except NT, Direct X 7 or later.