How Magnetic: Cage Closed offers a new take on the gun-puzzle genre

If you’re a fan of gun-puzzler games, a unique category occupied by gems like the Portal series and Antichamber, you’ve probably done some pretty extraordinary things with those titles’ scientific armaments. Magnetic: Cage Closed, the recently-announced title from Swedish indie studio Guru Games, features a gun that seems rudimentary by comparison: It’s just a super-powerful magnet, which can either attract or repulse certain objects in order to solve roomfuls of puzzles.

Where Magnetic: Cage Closed sets itself apart is how it handles that basic phenomena, and interprets it into clever game mechanics. During a hands-on session at PAX South, I got to tamper with those forces first-hand, tossing cubes — and myself — around all manner of deathtrap-filled puzzle chambers.

You might balk at the game’s inclusion of cube-based puzzles, considering that geometric shape’s popularity with 3D puzzle game developers. But in Magnetic, it’s not the objects that are the star: It’s the magnetism itself. Attracted objects don’t just fly toward your puzzle-solving tool — it doesn’t feel like a tractor beam, and it doesn’t feel like Half Life 2’s Gravity Gun. Objects move toward you realistically, and, if those objects are large enough, your character moves in turn.

Magnetic: Cage Closed screenshots

That latter conceit takes some getting used to. There are metallic platforms in Magnetic that you can stand on, and repulse while jumping, launching your character high into the air — even higher, if there’s a ceiling plate you can attract towards. Your gun has two power settings that you have to manage in order to avoid accidental calamity. Attract a cube that’s too big, and you’ll move towards it. Potentially off a platform. Potentially into a deadly pit of chlorine gas.

The realization of gravitational forces can lead to some fascinating, non-linear puzzle solving. Magnetic plates in the environment can put some english on objects you shoot in their general vicinity, allowing you to pull off miraculous corner shots or superhuman leaps. Like all the best games in this genre, solutions occasionally feel unintentional, making you feel smarter than the game itself, at least until the next room of puzzles completely stymies you.

Guru Games hopes to constantly keep players guessing; even ones who’ve beaten the game already. The world of Magnetic: Cage Closed was inspired by — appropriately enough — the horror franchise The Cube, where poor saps navigate a shifting, deadly labyrinth. In Magnetic, you’ll be forced to make decisions at certain junctures, and your decisions will change the order and composition of the rooms you’ll be solving. It’s an interesting attempt at fixing one of the puzzle genre’s weaknesses: Once you beat a puzzle game, you already know all the solutions.

Magnetic: Cage Closed will launch on Steam for Windows, as well as PlayStation 4 and Xbox One this March. You can check out the game’s announcement trailer below.