Magnus Failure – Definition of a Hidden Gem
That look grabbed me from the very first screenshot. Something about the sketched lines and the esoteric artwork screams intrigue. Why is that character wearing a giant helmet with a keyhole on the back? Why is there another mask with a bleeding eye stuck near the top? And what does Magnus Failure even mean?
Taking that $3 on Steam / $6 on Switch price tag and running with it, I had to dive in and see what was up. Now, I’m positively begging you to go see for yourself.
To sum it up in the most generic of terms, Magnus Failure is a point and click puzzle game. You wander around and collect items and solve puzzles based on those items. There’s a couple of codes to uncover and logic puzzles to crack.
The game world itself is nice and tight, so there’s no wandering around aimlessly – you’ll get the lay of the land in your mind quickly despite not having a map. There’s no item combinations that don’t make sense, no ridiculous solutions you can’t figure out without just actually thinking about it for a second.
In 45 minutes of runtime, Magnus Failure conveys an all-enveloping atmosphere in ways games fifty times its length struggle to. There’s a strange eeriness to every corner of its world.
The way your inventory is handled is so esoteric, yet also really intuitive. It’s incredibly chunky and tactile, with big button indicators and clear visual language. Electrical cables link spaces together, like synapses mapping understanding directly onto your brain. It may seem incomprehensible at first, but take the minute to let your mind adapt to it. There’s a magic in the discovery process that Magnus Failure captures so exceedingly well.
That idea of being esoteric is kind of the crux of everything that makes Magnus Failure appealing – a kind of weird, not necessarily alien, but nevertheless different vibe. The atmospheric soundtrack bleeds with ethereality. Religious iconography can be found scattered across the game space. The green of 70s and 80s computer screens highlight old, barely functional terminals.
Made by two Polish brothers over the course of the last year or so, there’s an element of an extra layer of translation that helps make the game more endearing than it should otherwise be. While not anywhere near the same type of game, think along the lines of Deadly Premonition: that cultural separation along with “non-traditional” translation to English only serves to make it more distinct.
There is very little in the way of a traditional “story”, and those looking for a neatly wrapped up conclusion will be left wanting. That’s not what this game is. What it is is a feeling; a joy in looking at something that at first seems inscrutable, before parsing that into a general understanding and vibe.
I’m not 100% sure, but there may be deeper secrets to find here as well. I never found what the fishhook or the starfish were for – if you play this and make that discovery, please let me know!
Magnus Failure at time of writing only has 6 total reviews on Steam, all in Polish. It’s not got a massive marketing budget. It’s a small project made by two brothers with a tiny following. And it’s one of the coolest little gems I’ve picked up in a long time.
I have just as many questions as I did when I first picked the game up; and I love that. It has me pondering the game hours after finishing. Why is there a huge blood stain above the door to my home? What are the weird pictures on the walls referencing? What is the true meaning of the telegram?
Do yourself a favour and check it out if it even remotely sounds appealing. There are worse things out there that cost much more money than this neat little experience.
Magnus Failure was reviewed on PC with code purchased by the reviewer.