Marble Blast rolls onto the iPhone in style!
NOTE: I want to apologize to all our readers for the late review. An awesome combination of me losing all my game progress, and losing my original review put me out quite a bit. (None of these being the game’s fault!)
Marble Blast originally came out on Macs about 6 years ago, so it’s only fit for the latest rendition to find itself on Apple’s new gaming platform. Oh yeah. I said it. Marble Blast proves even more than ever that the iPhone/iPod Touch are legit gaming consoles.
For those unfamiliar with the gameplay, it’s pretty simple. Tilting the iPhone to move (with optional touch controls), you roll around crazy mazes and obstacles to retrieve red gems and reach the level exit. As stated in my preview of the game, this feels very good, and handles as good as any other accelerometer rolling game out there.. It’s not perfect, but I think it’s close to being as good as you can get on the iPhone. Luckily, GarageGames threw in the most in-depth calibration options I’ve seen in an iPhone game.
The game does a good job of slowly centering your screen behind the marble as you roll around, but you can do this yourself with the press of a button. You can also use on screen arrows to manually move your view left or right. Finally, there is a free look mode that lets you tilt to see 360 degrees around your marble. This was a nice touch, and really helps for the more complicated levels, but takes some work to get right. There are on screen markers for where the gems reside if you get lost. Still, it can get frustrating and confusing moving around the levels. Makes me wonder why a map wasn’t included.
To mix things up, there are various powerups scattered around certain levels. Things like a helicopter attachment, super jump, and super speed (which equals instant death for me) need to be used at times to reach your goals for the level. Speaking of goals, they feel a bit steep for this game. Even in just the first few levels, I never got more than a bronze medal, and most of them I didn’t get jack. This is probably good for die-hard fans, but it’s tough for noobs, and even more tough because it’s trickier using tilt to control than a joystick.
The visuals in Marble Blast Mobile are certainly above average for a 3D iPhone game. Textures are high-res, and the lighting effects are good. The level design and textures are a bit bland though, and with only 20 levels to play, the excitement could wear off more quickly than expected. I should also point out that this is a game that should be played after restarting your device. After playing for an hour I experienced some medium lag, and the on-screen buttons stopped responding about 50% of the time, which lead to many frustrating deaths. Once I restarted, the issue was gone. This is kind of to be expected from iPhone games, but I would like to see it addressed in an update if possible.
Like it’s predecessor’s, Marble Blast Mobile features a wide music selection for the levels. There are some great electronic tracks that really add to the experience. The sound effects are very good as well, with some unfortunate clipping errors in certain instances. Not enough to really distract you from the game though.
There is multiplayer for up to 4 people (much less than referenced in the preview of the game from GDC), but I was unable to try it out. You can play on 10 of the levels if you’ve unlocked them. The gameplay revolves around collecting gems just like the single player mode. If someone has tried this out and wants to give their two cents in the comments, feel free!
Presentation & Graphics
Although the textures are a bit bland, and the levels aren’t incredibly exciting, Marble Blast churns out some nice reflections, crisp visuals, and a descent frame rate. The fact that some of the larger levels are fully rendered at all times is nice, with no magical “fog” covering up edges. Overall presentation is very slick.
Great electronic sound track backs up solid sound effects. Some clipping issues with sound effects at times, particularly when your marble skims along surfaces.
Garageband has definitely put some work into controls. They aren’t perfect, but with both touch and tilt options, along with some fantastic calibration options, you should find a type that works for you. The goals seem a bit steep considering you are playing on an iPhone and not a home console. You will more than likely come across more than a few frustrating moments from the difficult level design.
There are only 20 levels to play, with some replay value for trying to complete them at better times. There is also a 4 player mode via wifi. If it’s anything like the XBLA version of Marble Blast, it should be fun. We didn’t get the chance to test this out though.
Though I don’t quite feel it lives up to the hype, Marble Blast Mobile is a great treat for fans of the genre. If you haven’t played this type of game before, you may have trouble picking it up without a lot of frustration. That aside, the game looks, sounds, and plays well for the most part, and is certainly an impressive title for the iPhone. At $5 it’s well worth the price of admission.