Super Magbot manages to do what we thought was impossible: to be a platformer without the ability to jump.
The only simple thing about Super Magbot is its premise. A giant asteroid is careening through the galaxy and is on a crash course for the Magnetia Star. You are Super Magbot, a robot who can control positive and negative magnetic polarities. This essentially makes Magbot a kind of superhero. Using this power, you’ll need to traverse over 150 levels spread out through four worlds.
The game boasts a beautiful and clean 16-bit pixel art style. The visuals act as a great nostalgia factor, as is usually the case with retro art styles, but they are crisp and vibrant. In other words, it’s easy to see where you are, where you need to go, and how you’ll eventually get there.
It’s also important to mention the awesome work MoonSailor did with the game’s soundtrack. The chiptune music is catchy and never overstays its welcome. The soundtrack might not seem like a key factor in evaluating a title like Super Magbot, but you’ll be spending a lot of time in levels. It’s important that something as persistent as the music be enjoyable.
Difficulty Cranked Up
To say that Super Magbot is insanely difficult is somewhat of an understatement. Because you can’t jump, you need to use magnetism to your advantage. Every level contains strategically placed red and blue magnets, positive and negative polarity respectively, that you must use for traversal.
For example, if you want to jump up to nearby platform or even push yourself off of a wall, you’ll need to aim toward the magnet and use the same polarity to propel yourself up and away. Conversely, if you want to climb a wall, you’ll need to aim toward a magnet and use the opposite polarity to attract yourself up and over.
On a very macro level, that’s your sandbox from hell: use the appropriate color to jump and climb. Of course, there are tons of obstacles in the way to make sure things stay interesting. You’ll need to avoid spikes, blades, bullets, pits, and more. Simply put, anything that isn’t a platform will kill you (sometimes, even platforms will).
And yes, you die in one hit.
Fortunately, there are options to assist you if you feel like the difficulty is too much. Via the game’s Assist Mode, you can choose to activate some options and tailor the difficulty to your liking. For example, you can gain unlimited magnetic charges or even enable checkpoints in levels. Assist Mode won’t necessarily make the game easier, because you’ll still need to have quick aiming skills and fast reflexes, but it will make the game’s difficulty more manageable.
While a tough challenge is the main feature of Super Magbot, it’s also much more than that. To focus solely on the game’s difficulty is a disservice.
I’ll be very direct. Super Magbot is masterclass of game design.
As difficult as the game is, you aren’t thrown into the deep end right off the bat. You’re eased into the game’s mechanics early on and the first levels of each new world serve as playgrounds to get comfortable with new mechanics and hazards.
Granted, this is Game Design 101. However, it’s implemented so well that you don’t notice it. The game organically teaches you what you need to know. Think of Super Mario Bros’ first level, where you learn how to navigate and deal with enemies by actually playing the game. No pop-ups, no invasive tutorials.
Level design is also one of Super Magbot‘s highlights. You know where you need to go and the path is clearly laid out in front of you. While levels may have what seem like simple layouts, getting to the end in one piece is much more complex. The work that has been put into Super Magbot’s levels shows just how much love has gone into the game.
It would have been easy to settle on using the basic magnet mechanics for traversal, but Astral Pixel really pushed their ideas to the limit, they experimented with different effects. There are platforms that can only be used once, platforms that disintegrate if you stand on them for too long, platforms that bounce you higher and farther than normal ones, and more.
Throughout the game, Astral Pixel continuously develops its unique mechanic. The game consistently throws curveballs at you , ensuring that you never get too comfortable. Just when you think you’ve mastered everything Super Magbot has to offer, something new pops up and forces you to adapt.
Tight controls compliment the game’s great design. While Super Magbot does away with one of platforming’s key mechanics, it absolutely nails responsive controls and solid platforming action. Despite countless deaths, failure was nobody’s fault but my own. The game is challenging enough as it is, and it’s great to know that bugs or sloppy controls won’t interfere or bump up the difficulty artificially.
Super Magbot : Final Thoughts
It’s a testament to just how fun and well designed the game is that you’ll want to keep going even after failing several dozen times. Because the controls are so tight and everything is designed in a way to help you learn from your mistakes, you always feel like the next try will be the good one. Whether you notice it or not, you’ll get increasingly more comfortable with each level’s quirks. There aren’t many feelings like successfully navigating what was initially a very challenging level.
That being said, Super Magbot is a difficult game. It holds nothing back. It’s the kind of experience that you need to approach with an open-mind. Not to mention a lot of patience and the desire to push the limits of your skill. It absolutely isn’t the kind of game that you boot up for an hour or two of relaxation.
You’ll fail. You’ll fail again. And just when you think it’s over, you’ll miss that last jump and fall down a pit. It’s frustrating, but it’s all part of the experience. It’s all worth it in the end, because the feeling of completing a level despite the difficulty quickly replaces any frustration you felt in getting there.
Super Magbot is a game with loads of imagination. Not just because it successfully replaces one of the platforming genre’s most basic mechanics, but also through the myriad levels that are put in front you. Each one is different and offers its own challenge. The game is difficult, but if you can gather your patience and persist through it, you’ll get to play a creative and tightly designed platforming masterpiece.