Is Bill Nye designing games these days? Because Magnets, the newest, sleekest physics puzzle on the block, seems like his doing. Guiding a projectile, either positive or negative, around Legos, pencils, and other desktop debris by placing different sizes and types of magnets around to manipulate the path? You can't fool us! You can't make us learn! Nnngh... oh no, it's happening already! Brain... absorbing coordinates! Plotting... trajectories! Noooo, our cherished ignorance! How will we memorize pop culture quotes with all that stupid knowledge in our brains?!
The good news is, Magnets, from Candystand, is hardly as dull as your average classroom lesson. Similar to recent feature MagnetiZR, Magnets is considerably less flashy but a good deal more tricky. At the bottom of the screen lies a menu that grants you access to different magnets. Big, small, positive, negative, and even types able to polarity at a click. Once you've arranged your magnets by clicking and dragging them where you want them, click "Start" or hit [space] to fire. Pay close attention to the way different magnet types and sizes affect the speed and direction of your projectile, and you'll find your way to the target in no time.
The tricky bit? Each magnet placed and every adjustment you make to it after deducts a certain amount from your score. The more magnets you place, and the longer you fiddle with them, the more your score will fall. It becomes a test of getting to the target with your score as intact as you can manage, and if you find yourself stymied and unwilling to break away from the computer screen until you finish it, you can always use your sweet, frustrated tears as nourishment. Fortunately, you can "sell" a magnet back by dragging it back over the menu and releasing it.
Easily one of the things that makes Magnets stand out the most, however, is the design. Clean, uncluttered, sharp and simple, it's easy on the eyes and ears. But as tightly designed as Magnets is, there are a few sticking points. It can be difficult to place magnets as close to the bottom of the screen as you might like, since moving too close to it triggers the buy menu. And why do the hints you can purchase with your score early on simply vanish later in the game instead of simply becoming more and more expensive?
Analysis: While I'm sure the creators have plotted out a careful solution to each level, full of magnets placed just so for the least cost and most efficient of movements, you're able to win with much less finesse. Stitching together a Frankenstein's playfield of magnets stapled helter-skelter about to produce a functional yet ugly and inefficient path works just as well.
But while it's possible to pass all the levels with haphazard placement, your score will suffer for it. And it's not quite as satisfying as looking at the path in front of you, feeling something click in your head, and realising you can solve the puzzle with three pieces instead of seven. Sure you've got ten or more magnets available to use, but the real challenge is figuring out how few of them you actually need. And once the hints vanish in later levels, you'll have to spend some time really plotting out your courses to get the best results.
The physics/puzzle super-genre is getting quite the workout these days, and it's getting harder and harder to stand out. Happily, Magnets manages to succeed by refining the base concept and wrapping it up in one sleek, shiny little package for you. While we're not talking breathless excitement here (oooohhhh boy, it went around the pencil!), Mangets may not take any risks, but is a very fine brain teaser indeed, and a perfectionists' worst nightmare. Is that the best score you can come up with? Are you sure?