Magrunner is pretty blatant about being "inspired" by Portal, but it actually does enough to differentiate itself. You lose the sense of humor in favor of some mediocre Lovecraftian horror themes, but the magnet-based puzzles stand up well enough on their own to make the game worth a look for action-puzzler fans.

So instead of creating portal entries and exits, you can charge certain objects with either positive or negative polarity. And instead of Aperture Science, we're in the cyberpunk near future, with a Facebook-like company having risen to ultimate power and apparently basically running everything. We play as Dax, elite hu-nam selected to participate in the trials to become a Magrunner, or a space explorer who will put the company's new magnetism-based inventions to use.

Unfortunately, after a few puzzle rooms we find out the head of the company is actually a Cthulu worshipper, and Cthulu is also apparently real and the whole purpose of all this is really to revive him. Welp. Always knew Zuckerburg was up to some shit like this. Anyway, the resulting chaos provides the excuse to copy Portal's transition from safe test chambers to wrecked lab areas full of dangerous shit, and we'll eventually get out to outer space to face down the beast in his interdimensional home.

And somehow all of this will rely almost entirely on charging platforms, blocks and launchers to get from a room entrance to an exit. Magrunner does play a little fast and loose with the physics of how magnets actually work, but probably no one but Neil Degrasse Tyson and Bill Nye will care. The puzzles are a bit more abstract and difficult than those of Portal, but never really seemed unfair -- just devilish in their trickery sometimes.

One unique quality that Magrunner touts is actual enemies that chase you around areas, which I think is actually a cool idea for this type of game ... but it only happens a couple of times in the later reaches here and in each case, there's an exploding crate and a launcher conveniently at hand to give them a Wil. E Coyote death. More frequent enemy appearances with perhaps a recharging tool of some sort to stun them temporarily to buy a little time to complete a puzzle and get to safety would have been a really neat mechanic if done right, but nothing that ambitious is attempted here.

The writing is bad, and there's absolutely none of Portal's comedy, but the puzzles are well-designed and entertaining on their own merits. If you think you'd like something a little tougher and more abstract than Portal but in the same general vein, check this one out (at the right price).
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