A catastrophe involving UFOs and lasers – as space catastrophes often do – has separated a little orange ball bearing from his pink-colored loved one. They’ve landed on separate planet-like globules and she’s in plain sight, but reaching her will be easier said than done: each of them is quite a Magnetic Baby (Out Now, $0.99), so how will they ever escape the gravitational pull of the planets holding them down?
The name of the game in Magnetic Baby is to make the little orange marble go from zero to escape velocity in as little time as the player can manage. It’s all about orbital physics: once the rotund, smiley-faced hero makes a leap, he’ll either settle right back down on the planetary blob from which he sprang, or else settle on another body if he’s within tugging distance of its gravitational pull. Reaching the object of the hero’s affection is only one of the player’s goals: the game’s three zones and 63 levels are unlocked gradually as he or she collects a certain number of stars spread throughout.
If there were ever an iOS game fit to supplement an astronomy class, it would be this one; Magnetic Baby‘s orbital physics feel spot on, and the player must creatively exploit them to succeed. A successful launch requires the player to roll the hero around and gain speed on his current home planet, jumping at just the right moment to get a proper angle for liftoff. Spike studded asteroids will make him burst faster than a water balloon, but their gravity wells can still be used to bend his path as he’s careening through space. While levels tend to be small they’re thoroughly complex, fraught with ever-evolving dangers sure to test the player’s action skills.
Magnetic Baby‘s default tilt interface might have had disastrous consequences on the game’s enjoyability if not backed up by a good ol’ virtual joystick and jump button. Its third option, drag-to-move and release-to-jump, also performed poorly for me. I had a very difficult time pulling off basic maneuvers with the tilt and drag controls, but the virtual joystick and jump button work like a charm. Developer Bravery plus invites the player to switch interfaces on-the-fly, and getting a good feel for each right during the game’s tutorial levels comes highly recommended. Whatever method is chosen, a pinch-zoom function lets the player get a wide view of the entire level so there are no disturbing surprises.
It’s difficult to lodge many complaints against Magnetic Baby, but I can think of a few. A superb run may be retroactively recorded once a level is complete, ostensibly for sharing with friends or communicating tips to fellow players. This is a totally awesome idea, but the method for sharing replays currently seems unclear or not implemented quite yet. More importantly, the exact star collection level a player needs to unlock the next set of levels remains unclear; it would be great to have a well defined minimum handy, because these babies are difficult to get in the first place.
Magnetic Baby‘s exquisite hand-drawn art is proof positive that 2D remains a viable perspective for presenting impressive visuals. I just wish it had a few more music tracks to go along with its super cute in-game lullaby. Magnetic Baby can easily be counted on for five to six hours of play, with a few more for star-gathering perfectionists — and it seems there’s more to come, with Bravery promising additional content in updates!
iFanzine Verdict: A star is born! Magnetic Baby could have gone wrong on so many levels, but care and good design sense on the developer’s part have shaped this into a must-have for anyone interested in a good physics puzzler with a heavy dose of platforming action.