Version Reviewed: 1.0.0
Graphics / Sound [rating:5/5]
Game Controls [rating:4/5]
User Interface [rating:4/5]
Re-use / Replay Value [rating:4/5]
How many times have we seen rolling-ball games? I swear, it's Sega's fault; everyone wanted to be the next Super Monkey Ball (I hated that one's controls, by the way). And then we had the proliferation of "Labyrinth" games, which mimicked real-life wood creations. You'd think that the marble-maze idea would be...well, finished.
I should have known better. Marble Blast Mobile brings some new, devilishly creative spins to the genre and creates a seriously challenging game. Marble Blast has already made an appearance on the PC as Marble Blast Gold, and apparently it's also a successful title on Xbox Live Arcade in its Marble Blast Ultra incarnation. After spending some time with it, I can see why it's popular!
The concept isn't anything unique: starting at Point A, roll your marble around the level and collect all of the gems; once you've got them all, make it to Point B. What really makes Marble Blast shine are its levels. The designs range from the ridiculous to the frustrating, and they're all colorful and charismatic. One map features a tornado and moving platforms, while another is simply a large, hilly "bowl"; some make it impossible for you to fall off (using other nefarious obstacles instead) while some require you to guide your marble along a treacherously narrow path. All of the maps feel inventive, whimsical, and are fun to explore. There's a good variety, with 20 different maps and 10 multiplayer levels.
Of course, you'll have to do more than just explore the levels, though exploration is a must if you want to shave seconds off of your time later. The game rewards you with medals (bronze/silver/gold) for beating preset times, and you'll need to achieve bronze medals in early levels in order to unlock other maps. Don't expect the bronze to be a "consolation" prize; just finishing a level is tough! Some of those gold-medal times make my head spin. Marble Blast is challenging, and you have to work at it. But the sweet sense of victory that comes with a completed level is quite the reward; when you finish a level here, you feel accomplished.
Even the most creative levels can be ruined by a poor control scheme, but Marble Blast shines in that respect, too. You have two options—touch or tilt—but tilt is superior by far. Touch-based controls make use of an awkward joystick set up (one for marble control, another for camera control) while the tilt controls act as you'd expect, with on-screen camera controls as well. The tilt controls can be calibrated, too, so it's possible to play in bed or sitting up or standing on your head, for all the game cares.
Marble Blast has even more to offer, though! There's actually a special multiplayer mode, and up to four people can race in head-to-head matches using the ten multiplayer maps. Unfortunately, you all need to be present and connected—it works on local WiFi. I'd love to see full-fledged online multiplayer or global leaderboards in the future. In addition to multiplayer mode, there are a few more little features that deserve to be mentioned. First, there are powerups, ranging from a Gravity Modifier to the Gyrocopter, which make the wacky levels even more interesting. Secondly, you can customize your marbles with 16 different skins. I know that that sounds like a little thing, but it's a pretty neat little tweak—I like using Bob, the smiley-face marble, just because it's funny to nudge him off a cliff.
As far as drawbacks, Marble Blast has few to speak of. The game begs for online multiplayer, and more maps wouldn't go amiss. But, honestly, those aren't dealbreakers. The most significant critique I can give is that Marble Blast is challenging. Don't underestimate it. If you're impatient, this isn't a game for you. Expect the game to eat you alive the first time you boot it up. It's a joy to play, but actually doing well is very difficult. If you're not up for the challenge, then stay away from this one.
All in all, though, I think that Marble Blast Mobile should be a game with a very broad appeal. It's a charismatic, incredible execution of the marble-maze notion, and it fits perfectly on the iPhone.
Check out the developer's video: