Do you remember an old game called Marble Madness
? It was a very simple game that placed you in control of a marble as you maneuvered your way through obstacles. While the genre of games was a cult hit on the old Sega Genesis, games of that sort would remain dormant for nearly a decade, resurfacing with the release of Sega’s own Super Monkey Ball
for the Nintendo GameCube. Well developer Garage Games is out to prove that Sega isn’t the only game in town when it comes to marble controlling madness and for the most part, they’ve done an admirable job of doing so.
The premise of the game is quite simple, you’re given control of a marble and whilst in control of that marble you’ll have to accomplish a designated task that culminates with you entering a designated goal area. Featuring a relatively accurate physics system, the marble behaves quite realistically, reacting to your current environment. In addition to rolling you’ll be able to jump and collect a wide array of powerups that give you speed boosts, increased jumping height, and the ability to fly. It’s wacky and outlandish but to be honest, it’s a perfect fit for this game.
While the marble physics are quite dandy, the main attraction is without a doubt, the fun and imaginative puzzles. The main aim in each level varies; sometimes you’ll have to collect a set number of diamonds and other times you’ll just need to proceed to the goal in the allotted time period. Like Garage Games’ earlier entry, Chain Reaction
, there is a nice abundance of variety here. Levels range from simplistic oval-style racetracks to vertigo inducing skyscrapers. Then there’s a skate park where you’ll have to jump off of ramps to collect the scattered diamonds, a fun little level that resembles a giant skee ball machine and an especially entertaining level that recreates an exciting roller coaster. In fact, level design is so great that you’ll probably find yourself playing the game just to see what those twisted minds at Monster Games have in store for you next.Marble Blast
just isn’t about rolling over bumps and hills, jumping takes center stage on many of the game’s level. Learning to precision jump is paramount, forcing you to land on some narrow platforms where falling leads to failure. You’ll be able to control your marble while it’s in the air to add some spin to help you maintain your bearing. It’s a great exercise in skill and precision and while failure will no doubt lead to some frustration, completing some of the later levels really provides a strong sense of satisfaction. For an avid gamer who needs to take a break from the violence or for a young child that needs encouragement, this is definitely a welcome surprise.
Everything is rendered with a very cartoonish feel that will appeal to a pretty wide audience. Utilizing the Torque engine (the technology behind Tribes
) the game looks relatively attractive and runs pretty smoothly on most low-end machines. I personally found the environments to be very appealing to my eyes and while they’re not the best that the PC has to offer, they fit the bill of this game quite nicely. You’ll get some pretty pleasing lighting effects and animations to accommodate the on-screen action, most of which I feel are suitable for this game.
Like the other games in Garage Games’ formidable lineup, it comes with that minute $14.99 price tag. In today’s age where games are going for 40-50 bucks a pop, this can be considered a huge bargain, especially for the budget-minded shopper. Best of all? You won’t even need to travel to stores in order to pick this one up. Simply order it at the Garage Games website
and download it to your hard drive. Want to pick it up for a distant relative? Order it for them and give them your login info, it’s that simple. Sure you won’t have the satisfaction of having a hard copy of the game, but it’s still an excellent process that will save you a lot of headaches in this hectic holiday season.
To make matters even better, you won’t need a juggernaut of a system to run this game efficiently. It runs just as well on a P4 1.5 ghz as it does on a P3 800ghz. It’s a game that doesn’t rely too heavily on your computer’s power so it’s accessible to nearly everyone. Speaking of accessible, I thought it would be interesting to gauge some reactions from my family members. Everyone, from my 25-year-old PS2-loving brother to my 46-year-old anti video gaming mother enjoyed what Marble Blast
had to offer. With its simplistic, yet addictive gameplay, it caters to nearly every single audience out there.
But it does have a few flaws that really hinder the action. For one, the camera system may be difficult for some to grasp, especially those who aren’t yet adept at using the keyboard and mouse in conjunction. Some of the physics also seemed to be a bit shaky; sometimes I would barely roll into a wall and ricochet off of it with the velocity of a speeding bullet. Some of the puzzles are also a bit bland and are quite lacking, although those are far and few between.
And that’s just it; it’s a game for everyone. Everyone can enjoy this game, parents who are worried about exposing their children to the violent images seen in Grand Theft Auto Vice City
and Unreal Tournament
now have an entertaining alternative to feed to their children. Sure the game’s not perfect and it has a few flaws in it but it’s still an entertaining game that is a worthy addition to any gamer’s library.