Bad physics puzzles are easy to find, and enough of you have probably been burned by them to warrant an Oprah special. We could sit on the couch and haltingly tell her about poor collision detection and ill-conceived level design, biting our lips and looking away when she asks us how that made us feel. And then we could talk about how games like MagnetiBall are teaching us to trust again. And then Oprah would tell everyone to look under their seat, and there would be a new car and somebody's autobiography.
In MagnetiBall, you control a small, round ball over the course of 60 levels, where the objective is to get it into the checkered finish line by any means necessary.
... is... is that a cattle prod?! Put that away! I don't even want to know where you got that or why it has its own tasseled carrying case. No, here "any means necessary" means utilizing the ball's unique magnetic properties by clicking on gears. When you do, the ball will zip in the direction of the gear and stay there for as long as you hold down the mouse button. Releasing the button causes your ball to drop or stop moving. While this is a simple mechanic, it opens the door for some surprising fancy moves as you learn how to zip yourself around obstacles, Spider-Man style.
As the game wears on and the level design becomes more and more elaborate, the game allows you to rotate the screen by tapping the [left] and [right] arrow keys, which will cause the ball to drop in the new direction. You'll occasionally only be able to rotate in one direction or not at all, so don't get too reliant on flipping the playfield.
Despite the title of the game, which implies the ball you're controlling is some sort of, y'know, metal that can be attracted by magnets, the farther you get, the quicker you'll come to the realisation that what you actually have here is some sort of hyper-magnetic soap bubble. Yes, we were surprised too. But there's no other explanation for the way it bursts upon contact with the spikes that start cropping up in later levels, making the game a whole lot trickier. No more flopping around like a fish out of water for you, dear reader. Not that you would, of course.
Analysis: It seems you can't swing a stick these days without hitting a physics puzzle. And aside from seriously impeding one's stick-swinging day-to-day activities, this also means we're expecting more and more from them, and are less willing to overlook problems. By keeping its presentation so simple and slick, MagnetiBall is able to focus much more on gameplay than relying on flash and bling to keep us hooked. This is not to say that MagnetiBall is some burly, romance novel hero of a game, here to sweep you off your feet and croon sweet nothings into your ear while you sail away into the sunset. It isn't perfect, but it is a remarkably tight and well-made little package. There are only really two moves to master, but the level design is sharp enough that the approach to each one rarely feels stale or unfair.
For me at least, the real star of the game is the levels themselves. It would have been easy to just make a series of punishing mazes, but MagnetiBall treats you right, with some really clever design. Each one presents its own challenge, so that you really feel as though you've accomplished something when you finish it.
There are some levels that feature no magnets for poor MagnetiBall to use, and require you to get to the finish by sheer luck alone. Or at least, the way the ball behaves as though it's falling through pudding is odd and frustrating enough on these levels to feel like all you can do is cross your fingers as you flip the screen about. I wish the ball behaved more like it were made of metal so it would have been easier to predict where it would fall.
The game informs you of the top time for each level when you complete it. In a way, this is actually a good thing. There were times that I was frustrated after having spent too long fiddling on a level, and oddly enough the realisation that it was indeed possible to finish it in a tiny time frame was comforting. It meant that there was a rhyme and reason to it all, and all I had to do was figure it out. You can win levels by thrashing about like a lunatic on, but it's so much more satisfying when you don't.
And when I did figure out that sneaky little solution? Oh, you can bet I wore my Smug Hat that day. The downside is that the farther you go, the solution is less frequently "Ooohhh, your brain is so strong" and moreso "HEYQUICKCLICKHERESLOWPOKE". But MagnetiBall is still a stellar example of how you don't have to be complex to be fun. Deceptively simple, definitely challenging, it's more than deserving of your time.
Thanks for sending this one in, Accent!
This game is crazier than crazy itself.
Great mechanics. Nice little diversion.
I do wish game developers would stop using custom mouse icons though; it only hurts performance.
Gradually went slower and slower on my machine. On the 3rd level after the tutorial, it was so slow it was unplayable.
I'm sorry to hear that, MdB. Physics games do tend to demand a little much in the "HRRRRRRRGH ME AM PROCESSOR" department of computers. I didn't have that problem with this one myself, and I have Bob The Generic Computer. Maybe try playing with no other windows open or extra programs running?
Great fun so far and managed to get a #1 on Tutorial 3 so feeling smug (though it was more a case of luck).
I'll comment more once I get further into it.
It's unplayable for me. Freezes my entire PC then crashes the browser. I have a good PC, all the latest updates for all necessary programs and play tons of games here. I've never encountered anything like this before on a flash game.
I really like this, but I got stuck on the Time Machine level. My ball seemed to get wedged and wouldn't move even if I click on the magnets or rotated the field.
A restart option might be nice, I had to refresh the page and select "continue". Or is there a reset option and I just can't see it?
I got the slowdown as well. It took a bit longer for me (it was weird that it took a while, and it wasn't a particularly cluttered level either). I don't think it's the physics which are to blame but the graphics; turning the quality down eliminated the problem.
I did notice it progressively slowing down, to the point where it was unplayable. The machine I'm running it on is NOT a clunker by any stretch of the imagination.
I suspect a memory leak.
I love the puzzles though.
Level 23--Easy Bounce--is nigh impossible.
It's not a question of knowing how to do it...after watching the solution video, I was disappointed to find out that my approach was the "correct one", but I am simply unable to perform it successfully.
That sucked all the fun out of it. :-(
Fun game, but I'm at a loss as to how to get as fast as the best times are. It would have been nice to have an average time as well, so I don't feel so bad about mine.
I'm getting the slow down issue as well, and it does appear to be a memory leak. Reducing the quality got me through an additional 10 levels or so before it slowed to a crawl again. Only slowed down the flash area, not the rest of the browser window.
Not sure if the download does the same thing or not.
I managed to find a bug in the game. In the "Escher" level, I wedged the ball in between a staircase and the out wall, such that no amount of rotating would free it. Time just kept running until I quit out of it.
I felt that the gear icons were just too small to hit accurately, and the levels were mostly dumb luck combined with hopefully being able to rapidly click between multiple gears.
It just wasn't much of a physics game, and the need to have "some" rotating levels (but not all, of course, with no obvious warning before you start) just felt a little "me too".
I really didn't enjoy this, and gave up after about 10 levels. And I even played "When Pigs Fly" through to the end!
Thanks Dora for your review, and everyone for your comments!
While I am carefully taking note of every criticism and praise about the game, I'm unfortunately unable to say that its issues will be fixed. I worked on Magnetiball with three friends and only one of them is willing to continue working on it, and he's not a coder (nor am I).
However, I predict a sequel in some time... your feedback isn't useless!
It's so sad that King.com got rid of all these games for those fermium games. Now I can't play this game anywhere anymore.