Magrunner: Dark Pulse
If you're going to model your video game after another, it's a good idea to pick from the best. And while comparisons to Portal can't be avoided, Ukraine-based Frogwares has put enough topspin on Magrunner: Dark Pulse that it stands on its own.
You play as one of seven candidates for a space exploration training program. Wearing a "mag glove," you can create and manipulate magnetic fields; your objective is to find a way to exit each of the rooms you enter. In the world of Magrunner, magnetism works as it does in ours: objects with the same field, indicated with the colours red and green, attract, while opposite-coloured objects repel. Grouping objects with the same field increases the overall strength.
Platforms move along beams of light that can be magnetized, and there are multiple sizes of cubes, too. Smaller cubes can be combined into larger sizes which can be used to break glass barriers and will support your weight, providing a means of getting across gaps. And some cubes are explosive. Which becomes important when the scales fall from your eyes and you see the pristine test facility in its true form. If you've played Portal, you'll recognize much of this. But while the twist in that game came courtesy of a rogue – and insane – computer AI, the element of chaos in Magrunner are the weird and dangerous creatures from the Cthulu mythos. That's when things get interesting.
The storytelling is a bit heavy-handed; the developers wanted to make sure that players really understood what is going on. But the puzzles are varied and interesting and are a great test of how well you've understood the additive and subtractive nature of magnetic fields.
Magrunner may owe its existence to Portal, but fans of that style of first-person puzzle platformer will appreciate the opportunity to play something similar. (Developer: Frogwares; Platform: Windows, PS3 and Xbox 360 planned)
Not so much a game as an interactive experience, Proteus is the vision of two artists, programmer Ed Key and musician David Kanaga. It's about wandering and wonderment. Presented in the first-person perspective, you start standing in water. Hazily on the horizon you can see an island.
Proteus is not a game, per se, because there's no objective save wandering around the island as it slowly moves through night and day. And four seasons. The graphics are pixelated but recognizable as a frog, say, or a flock of chickens. The soundtrack is created by your movement through the environment. And it's all created on the fly as you play the game. Which means that every island is different in terms of both sound and vision.
Even though it's not a game, Proteus is best played with headphones on and in a mood when you're looking for some serenity. Think of it as meditation. (Ed Key & David Kanaga; Linux, OS X, Windows)