Version Reviewed: 1.5
Device Reviewed On: iPad Air
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
Marbles have been unsung gaming heroes ever since PlayStation 4 architect and boy wizard Mark Cerny rolled out Marble Madness for arcades in 1984. But with tilt controls being the next best thing to a track pad, marble games have found a new home on iOS. And what Marble Mountain may lack in beauty, it makes up for in scope.
If you’ve ever played any kind of marble game, from Kororinpa to Super Monkey Ball, Marble Mountain will be instantly familiar. Players tilt their device to guide a marble around treacherous levels by delicately maintaining balance, direction, and speed. The sensitive controls can be heavily customized, but unfortunately the levels themselves don’t have as much polish. The colorful but blocky arenas resemble some Nintendo 64 games, and aside from some neat dynamic camera tricks the world feels lifeless. At one point players are in a western town, and seeing a group of inanimate marbles where characters with personality should be is just eerie; like a toy ghost town. It’s at odds with the overall exciting adventure theme.
Fortunately, it seems as if the developers funneled the effort that the presentation was denied into the level design instead. Marble Mountain's stages are so creative and relatively expansive for the genre that the handful of forest levels that make up the free version might even be enough to satisfy players. Those stages are certainly tough enough to last a while before upgrading to the fire and ice levels of the full game. Players solve puzzles, explore new parts of the map, and find ways to hop across hazards like in a full-blown platformer.
One level features a series of conveyor belts and another has players traveling up a twisting tree trunk. But while these tricks are clever the first time around, since the levels can get so big some checkpoints would’ve been nice to avoid too much repetition. Right now death means starting over from square one. However, replaying levels does give players an excuse to achieve faster times and earn new marble types as prizes. After all, custom designs are what separate marbles from regular old balls.
Marble Mountain's admirable substance overcomes its stylistic shortcomings. Don’t let this one roll past you.