Marble Blast Mobile Really a Blast

Posted: May 16, 2009 in Puzzle

Playing marbles and labyrinth-type games used to be so simple growing up, and yet today, there are several titles in the iTunes store that attempt to recreate a realistic experience of ball rolling through a maze. Where they usually falter are in the maneuvering and ball physics during gameplay. The latest entrant to the ball rolling category is Marble Blast Mobile, which succeeds in creating not only a realistic experience, but a fun one as well.

The concept is nothing new—roll a marble around various levels collecting objects and getting to the finish line before time expires. Marble Blast offers 20 levels (10 multiplayer levels only on LAN; wifi is coming) of beautifully rendered 3D environments with a 360-degree perspective each as complex as the other. These mazes have names such as Tornado, Epicenter, Spork in the Road, Hop Skip and a Jump, and Thrill Ride just to name a few. Each maze has its own set of qualifying times to earn gold, silver and bronze medals. The first 6 mazes are unlocked and as you earn at a least bronze in these levels, another maze unlocks. The levels are either gem hunt levels where all the gems must collected to unlock the finish pad, or race levels where the objective is to reach the finish pad as quickly as possible.

As I mentioned, controls have generally been the bane of many maze-type games. In the case of Marble Blast, the devs went out of their way to try and meet everyone’s control preferences. The game has two control schemes: iPhone (accelerometer with arrows to with full 360 degree view, and Classic (dual pad set up—one for maneuvering and one for adjusting camera angle). And, to jump, you simply tap the marble. You also have options for marble speed, camera distance, camera speed, and invert camera. When starting out, I strongly suggest reducing the marble speed to slow and using the Classic control scheme. This game will eat you alive if you’re not familiar with the mazes and the controls. Even on the slow setting, the marble moves quickly. Personally, I use the accelerometer because I can make small directional adjustments easier.

In addition to that, an elaborate calibration system is included where adjustments can be made to the device tilt, vertical tilt, and horizontal tilt, which really optimizes the gameplay for each individual.

An interesting part of Marble Blast is the power ups that can cut seconds off your finish time. These include the Gyrocopter, Super Jump, Mega Marble, and Super Speed as well as perks such as the Gravity Modifier and Time Travel. When you use one, it appears in the upper right-hand corner of the screen which you tap to use. To pause the game, tap the timer. If that weren’t enough, you can even choose the look of your marble from 16 designs with names such as Ace of Hearts, Randy MacNally, Gang Green, Groovy Ball, and of course Bob.

In the gameplay screen, a counter in the top left corner keeps track of the gems collected in the gem hunt mazes along with a timer. The gameplay for the most part is terrific as you roll along in the beautiful environments that are full of jumps, drops, and twists. Red arrows point in the direction of gems and finish pads. What you’ll notice is that the marble physics are generally spot-on with little awkwardness or lag. What would be helpful is a radar or mini-map of gems or checkpoints since you can easily get lost in some of the more elaborate mazes. As I mentioned, even on the slowest settings, the marble is fast, and some mazes don’t have walls. Frankly, it’s kind of distressing to watch your marble especially if you choose Bob, fall off into the yonder. While 20 levels doesn’t sound like much, those levels are plenty challenging, and don’t be surprised if you have to play through them many times over and over again just to earn a bronze.

Marble Blast currently lacks multiplayer online gameplay with no online high scores, which is limiting at this point but shouldn’t be a deal breaker. These and additional levels will add to the replayability and longevity of the game.

As wonderful as Marble Blast, this game is not for everyone. While the controls are great, there is still a learning curve, and this game is not for the impatient. But, if you’re looking for a challenging, entertaining, and on top of that, a great looking game, Marble Blast would certainly qualify.

Albie Meter: 4 stars (recommended for those looking for their next challenge and don’t mind getting lost along the way)

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