While I was in middle school, we were provided laptops, so naturally I installed games on it as soon as I could. Due to their setup, a workaround was required to install them, so only a handful of games could be chosen from. One such game was Marble Blast Gold, a simple game that tasked you with rolling a marble towards a goal. While my time with it was short, it was always a game that was not great, but fun and memorable enough. Marble Blast Gold was benchmark in my mind as I rolled into Marble It Up.
The premise is quite simple — roll a marble from start to finish as quickly as possible. There’s little innovation to be found in the ‘marble rolling’ genre, and the game doesn’t look to change the formula in any way. It’s a clear homage to marble games of the past, and even the developers behind Marble It Up know it. On their game description page on Nintendo eshop, they boldly claim that “the next generation of marble rolling game has arrived”.
That claim is one I can confirm as true, because despite little in the way of innovation, there is a noticeable improvement to the other similar titles. The first and most obvious is the visuals, but it’s more than just in terms of quality. Watching old Marble Blast Gold gameplay to refresh my memories, I noticed that its levels were multi-colored messes that come across jarring. Neon and fluorescent colors made up the maps, while textures looked like a bad clip-art wallpaper.
Marble It Up, on the other hand, keeps colors more muted, mixing up shades and matching it with background choices to keep them different, yet complementary. There was a stronger sense of aesthetics than in the marble rollers of my past. The marble itself is another visible asset that has been clearly improved upon. The marble designs are drop dead gorgeous to begin with, but you unlock more skins through gameplay, rewarding your playing with high quality cosmetics.
As for the gameplay, Marble It Up isn’t much more complex than rolling the marble to the finish. It’s more enjoyable than it sounds on paper, as what takes place between start to finish is where the game is at its best. Being a platformer of sorts, there are hills, gaps, and obstacles you’ll need to traverse, and they seek to send your marble flying off course and into the space-like abyss that surrounds the lone structures you’re traveling across.
As you make your way through the levels, new tactics are requested in the form of power-ups and terrain alterations. The boosts are used to alter the marble’s trajectory, and they include speed boosts, super jumps, and feather falls. Terrain alterations go beyond just hills and raised platforms with slick ice fields or gravity-altering floors adding extra obstacles you have to overcome. While they could have been abused, the game doesn’t overuse them, instead opting to sprinkle them evenly among levels.
Controls work marvelously. Thanks to a perfectly positioned camera, the challenge comes from the obstacles themselves, rather than trying to keep up view of the marble. It has a solid weight to it, giving movement a smooth, heavy feeling that makes you feel you’re in complete control. I never felt like I lost dominance over my marble, even when it was slipping and sliding on icy patches, or sped down massive hills. Controls also showcase the developer’s masterful level design. You always feel like the marble is under your power, and no map takes this away at any point.
However, Marble It Up lacks in overall challenge. While puzzles near the end can be quite difficult, the majority of them feel too easy. I rarely died early on, and until the last handful of levels, I would fall only due to unfamiliarity with a new level. That was quickly overcame, though, and I could complete levels with little to no hassle.
Where the game tries to make up for the lack of difficulty is an emphasis on speed running. Time-based medals and other time-related races and challenges within the levels put pressure on maximizing movement. While I found speed running acceptable addition that does provide extra use out of each level, I believe it can also be a downfall to the overall quality of the game.
I was ultimately shocked by how few levels there eventually were. Just as they had just started to get interesting, I was already nearing the end. The longer, more complex maps I was waiting for finally began to appear, and I was enjoying trying to overcome them. However, having the content suddenly dry up left me wanting more, and the time challenges quickly left me wanting more new content, rather than repeating the old.
The quality of the content is top tier, though, and those looking for some challenge will find it. If you don’t mind repeating the same levels over and over, there is enough in the game to keep you busy for a while. Likewise, the quest to unlock marble skins can easily sink up a fair amount of your time. The excellent map design is there, but the quantity isn’t, and that’s what really hurts an otherwise enjoyable game. What Marble It Up does, it does well, but where it’s lacking is quite noticeable.
In the end, my recommendation for Marble It Up is based upon what kind of games you like to play or are looking for. Those longing for a title chock-full of content will be disappointed, but those after a small time sink that rewards commitment and mastery, then Marble it Up is a great game to fill those voids.