Life as a little blue ball is hard. If you're not being shoved around a maze filled with deadly hazards like in Slyder, you're getting bounced around levels that have been furnished with spikes.
At least that's the fate awaiting Magnetic Joe, an imaginative new puzzle game. With little fanfare, it's up to you to guide Joe to the exit of a series of 50 levels, all the while avoiding the pointy dangers contained therein.
As with Slyder, the notion of locomotion when arms, legs, wheels and other forms of propulsion are conspicuous by their absence is tricky.
So, in Magnetic Joe's case, you use magnets that are cemented into the floors, walls and ceilings of each level. Being of the ball-bearing persuasion, these magnets enable you to push and pull Joe in the desired direction, after a fashion.
This is where the puzzle element of the game makes itself apparent. Not only do you need to safely navigate the levels that have been fiendishly designed, you have to get to grips with the vagaries of moving with magnets.
If you've ever played with magnets, particularly pushing opposing poles against each other, you'll know that getting one to go in the direction you want can be pretty challenging.
So the precision that's required to successfully escape the levels in Magnetic Joe takes some time to achieve. It is possible, but only through a great deal of trial and error.
Thankfully you get an unlimited number of chances to complete each level. Starting out by hovering in the air, when the level begins you drop to the ground, where you'll bounce. You can then commence manoeuvres by pressing '5' on your handset to activate any nearby magnets.
Each magnet will propel you in a different direction (not all magnets will send you the way you want) and you can't control individual magnets: they're either all on or all off. The only degree of control you have is that each magnet can only extend its influence over a short distance, so as Joe bounces and rolls his way through each level, you can pick and choose when you need a polarised push and, consequently, which magnets to activate.
Gauging how long each push needs to be is where your skills will shine, as the longer Joe is propelled by an active magnet, the further/faster/higher he goes. And there's genuine fun to be had in levitating a little blue ball along a snow-covered plateau before floating him off into the wide blue yonder.
But things depend too much on chance and repeat-playing of each new level for Magnetic Joe to be a truly classic puzzler.
Because of the small amount of each level that's shown on screen at any one time, you often don't see dangers until Joe's been impaled on them. This means you'll hardly ever complete a level the first time out. Either showing more of each level on screen as you play or a quick pre-play preview of the level before you start would have been useful.
The visuals are a little bit basic and repetitive, too, looking a couple of years' out of date.
Nevertheless, Magnetic Joe really is a different prospect to what we've become used to, and while there's an initial sense of unease when there aren't any coloured blocks or crystals to be arranged, its compelling action and enjoyably brief levels soon win you over.
Being a little blue ball has, on reflection, never been so good.