You really wouldn't think the lack of one simple mechanic would be enough to be the main factor that identifies a game, but that's precisely the case with Astral Pixel's latest hardcore platformer Super Magbot. This gorgeous 2D title is a platformer through and through, a challenging one at that, but the main feature that sets it apart from others in the genre is that you cannot jump in this game - that's right, it's a platformer without the ability to jump.
The story for the title sees players take the intrepid robotic explorer Magbot on a journey across the cosmos, to collect fragments of the Magnetia Star that have landed on several planets. It is your duty to traverse a bunch of difficult levels to pick up these fragments so that you can stop an ancient evil force, a terrible power hungry asteroid, from consuming them and using their energy to amass strength. Completing levels and acquiring fragments is never easy however, since Magbot cannot jump, it can only use its magnetic force to attract and repel off specific surfaces to quickly manoeuvre over and around the hazards that are stuck between Magbot and its goal.
The premise of this platformer might seem a little unusual, but it works incredibly well, albeit if it can be a little mind boggling at times. Aside from getting Magbot to move left and right, your duty will be to aim and use the magnetic force to be able to leap (by being magnetically repulsed) or be pulled to magnetically charged blocks. Using a base knowledge of magnetism, you'll have to use the red and blue charges of the magnetic force to interact with the red and blue magnetic objects, and it'll be up to you to figure out how the laws of attraction and repulsion can be beneficial to getting you to your end goal.
For example, the platforming can be as simple as using the red force on a blue block to pull Magbot to it, or alternatively using the red force on a red block to be repulsed by it and to be pushed away. The concept is simple, but it gets much more complicated as Magbot encounters new types of objects, including magnetised bubbles, falling platforms, and breakable walls, each of which will task you with using your magnetic powers differently.
As I mentioned above, this can become a little confusing, especially when there are a range of different platforms for you to cross, but this is precisely why Super Magbot is regarded as a hardcore platformer. The levels resemble that of Super Meat Boy, and if you are fast can be completed in 20 seconds, but getting your head around the mechanics and nailing the timing of every move and use of magnetism will result in plenty of deaths - so don't expect an easy go of it, despite the levels being rather small in size.
Astral Pixel has done a great job of ensuring the core mechanics and gameplay of Super Magbot are entertaining through and through, and it makes the game endlessly engaging. The loop and challenge is designed and balanced in such a way that you don't need upgradeable features to make Magbot more capable, as is the case in a lot of platformers. You'll be completely consumed with simply making it to the end of a level, and beating your own, and other players' times.
But, if improving your time doesn't tickle your fancy, then you can also look to spend time picking up the collectibles in each of the levels, collectibles that should you grab them all across a world, will unlock alternative versions of that planet. Essentially, and following the Super Meat Boy comparison, this is the equivalent of the Dark World, and provides plenty of new challenges that are for the most part more difficult for players to tackle.
I would be remiss to not mention the art style and sound design for this game. Super Magbot uses a striking 16-bit pixel art style that captures a retro feeling for the game, an approach that is only bettered by the chiptune soundtrack that is upbeat, arcade-y, and retro.
In an age where platformers are commonplace, and indie games with pixel graphics desperately oversaturate the market, you might overlook this unique and challenging title from Astral Pixel. But, if you are a fan of games that push you and aren't afraid of racking up a few deaths (well... a lot) then Super Magbot is a game you should absolutely be keeping an eye on, as the simplicity of its controls, the unique game mechanics, and the fast pace will assuredly keep you entertained and craving for more.