Game Reviews

Magic River - Frustrates more than entertains

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| Magic River
Magic River - Frustrates more than entertains
| Magic River

Ten minutes of playing Ketchapp's new endless runner, and things are not going well.

"Go home Magic River, you're drunk."

The little kayak I'm meant to be steering up stream seemsto have a mind of its own, and no matter where I tap the screen it appears determined to headbutt every obstacle I'm trying to avoid.

Less like gliding down the Nile, more like stumbling through Glasgow town centre at 3am.

Pass the aspirin

Odds are you'll have played a game like Magic River before. Your task is guiding a boat up boulder-strewn, crocodile infested waters.

From cactus-covered deserts to Penguin-peppered icebergs, the landscapes will change but the core game mechanic won't - get as far as you can without dying.

Now, that's easier said than done thanks to controls so dodgy they'll give you flashbacks to the short-circuiting bumper cars at Whitley Bay.

Your instincts want to tap the right side of the screen to turn right, and the left to go left. Instead, it doesn't matter where you tap the screen – each prod will alternate your boat to go left, then another tap to the right, then left, and so on.

It makes traversing tight corners face-clawingly tricky. Sometimes you'll want to turn sharply to the right, but the in-built right / left pattern means the next tap will take you left – straight into the jaws of a crocodile.

After a longer playtime the method to this madness becomes more obvious. As you rewire your brain to embrace the control scheme, you find your personal best stretching farther and farther into the horizon.

Boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly

A steep difficulty curve is meant to fire the endorphins with greater intensity when you succeed, and indeed mastering the tricky controls can become part of the fun.

The trouble lies in Magic River's more literal rewards - I've used staplers with more satisfying impact than this game.

Similar to Crossy Road, collecting gems or completing challenges unlocks new characters to traverse obstacles with.

Unlike Crossy Road, however, the completion of these missions is met with very little fanfare. Despite countless deaths and even more expletives, there's no real reward for breaking records.

Complete ten missions and you'll unlock a new character, but the task is so gargantuan your great-grandkids will have to finish the job for you.

There's just not enough here to persuade you to sink hours into inching further than you inched before, nor enough twists on a familiar formula to keep you entertained.

Magic River looks great, all colourful polygons and beautifully simple set pieces. The soundtrack is likewise sublime, and there are some humorous touches to the characters - a British Beefeater that paddles a red phonebox with his rifle, for example.

Still, a floundering core mechanic means that there's not enough to save Magic River from ultimately capsizing.

Magic River - Frustrates more than entertains

A good looking addition to the endless runner canon, but one that will frustrate more than entertain