Marble Blast Gold
Marble Blast Gold is a roll-em-up. The object is to roll a ball over a 3D landscape, pick up all of the gems and get to the exit. On the way you will encounter lots of pick-ups that affect your ball and the level in a whole heap of interesting ways. The levels have moving platforms and jump ramps too.
The presentation in Marble Blast Gold is excellent. The graphics are all very bright and colourful and the special effects, from the explosions of the land mines to the fireworks when a level is complete, are all on-par with a console game of the Nintendo 64 era. Some of the level objects, like the tornado, are very nice to look at. The font is easy to read and everything is easy to identify.
The perfectly appropriate cheery music in the background for once stayed on during this game. The other sound effects, from the whirling fans to the simple but often heard acts such as the ball bounce, are as good as they can be.
The controls are two handed but very simple to use, especially if you've played a PC first-person-shooter game before. The mouse rotates the camera, and you can hold down the right mouse button to pitch the view too. The keyboard (which oddly uses W, A, S and D by default) is used to roll the ball. Space will jump, kick the ball upwards a bit.
Crucially the controls work very well indeed, the feel of the game is perfect. The ball is never too sensitive when rolling and any frustration is due to the ineptitude of the player, and not the game design. All of the controls can be reassigned and I thought that the game improved when mouse-look was active all of the time, so that option is appreciated.
There are a large variety of pick-ups, which are generally (but not always) activated by a click of the left mouse button. The gravity pick-ups are my favourite. Grab a spinning planet and the whole level will rotate, allowing the player to roll along the wall or ceiling. Other pick-ups include speed ups, high jumps or high bounces, and there are also a variety of floor surfaces that apply differing friction or bounce resistance to the ball.
I had a few minor niggles with the game. The "Ready - Set - Go!" speech that appears at the start of every level got very annoying very quickly. Restarting a failed level with a wait of a mere 2 or 3 seconds became a unpleasant experience. The camera also behaves oddly when up against a wall which can be confusing.
There are 4 classes of levels. Beginner levels serve as a tutorial, and the Intermediate and Advanced levels make up the bulk of the game. Levels must be played and completed in strict order. I managed to complete all 24 beginner levels in under 30 minutes so longevity might be a problem, but the more difficult levels can take a lot more time to complete. You can also select Custom levels. No level editor was evident so presumably these are downloaded.
With a team of twelve developers, Marble Blast Gold is unusual compared to most of the other games reviewed here. A larger budget will inevitably lead to a better game, and this game proves it. Marble Blast Gold is a near flawless interpretation of a roll-a-ball game.
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