An Alien With a Magnet Review
If I was none the wiser, I'd take one look at An Alien With a Magnet, realize it has an absolutely horrible name, and pass it by and download some other app. Although the title is an attempt at total understatement, the name should give people pause for thought. Basically, it's like telling a friend you have a next door neighbor who's just a girl. But what if that "girl" was actress Minka Kelly? Wouldn't you want to know? But there is more to something than its name, and this iOS release is one you won't want to miss.
Your task is to navigate a goofy looking alien back to his home, with the stars, a plethora of diamonds, and your fingers as his trusted allies. Forget laser cannons or any flashy additions to the spacecraft, as this adventurer is armed with just a magnet to hover from asteroid to asteroid. The goal of each level is to avoid crashing the ship, a task which gets trickier as you progress. Collecting as many stars and diamonds enables you to not only increase your scores and unlock achievements, but also find a pathway to even more levels.
Much of your movement necessitates holding a finger to the screen as your craft circles around a planet to collect stars, diamonds, and score multipliers. Once you release your finger, the ship flies off into zero gravity and will immediately go adrift until you touch your device once again. Learning to fly in space with just a magnet to move forward is a tricky challenge, but it's a difficulty you'll probably love if physics based titles are your bread and butter.
Although there will be a ton of deaths coming your way, there are a couple of levels which pillows surrounding the galaxy. They may look all cute and white and bouncy, and nine out of 10 times they are immensely helpful, but if you get too complacent, they can send you spiraling down another rabbit hole and into a meeting with the Grim Reaper. Still, pillows are relaxing and comfy, so let's give them a break.
The game's striking visuals, coupled with the mesmerizing quality of circling around asteroids and finding your footing in the galaxy make for a spellbinding experience. A mixture of concentration and coordination helps in surviving each level, but your mind and fingers can get a bit distracted with all the gorgeous colors that grace the screen. The pleasing, playful music score also adds to An Alien With a Magnet's creative luster, and what starts off as a seemingly one dimensional title evolves into something even deeper.
There is also a great philosophical aspect to this platformer, as it plays on the tried and true theme of risk versus reward. The right hand photo below has my ship on a green asteroid, and all I need to do is fly northward towards all those blurry, specs. Unfortunately, I've left a ton of uncollected stars during my flight, but if I go back to increase my score I could die and waste this level altogether. It's up to you to figure out if leaving a level as fast as possible (there are also time trial modes in the game), is the best way to play, or if being gutsy and picking up all the treasures is the only way to roll. Being a total yellow bellied gamer, I left Dodge as soon as possible.
It's such a gratifying experience to come across a title that is more than the sum of its parts. An Alien With a Magnet is a completely satisfying and complex journey that's crafted by developers who actually care about their product. Worn out cliches are usually welcome by nobody, but truly this is a game that is hard to put down. It's funny how recent space epics like Oblivion and Prometheus have given me cinematic indigestion. For just $0.99, I had a much better time dodging a few asteroids with a pretty cool alien whose name I'd rather forget.