Developer: Bad Habit Productions
Publisher: Bad Habit Productions
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Rating: E for Everyone
I remember having hours of fun playing games like Super Monkey Ball and Marble Madness, thinking there’s something about rolling a ball that’s apparently addictive to gamers. Perhaps the best known entry to console gamers is Marble Blast Ultra for Xbox Live Arcade, which owners of early Xbox 360 systems surely remember from the demo that came pre-loaded with the console. Unfortunately, players have been left without a great marble rolling simulator for years, but now there is Marble It Up! from developer Bad Habit Games and it’s one of the best marble rollers yet.
*There is no negative content in this game (unless you think rolling marbles is sinful).
Marble It Up! is a spiritual successor to Marble Blast Ultra that seeks to return the ball-rolling genre to its former glory. The gameplay consists of you controlling a marble and must use any means necessary to reach the end of a variety of unique and sometimes crazy courses. While this can usually be achieved by simply rolling and jumping to the end, you’ll occasionally be gifted some useful power-ups, such as a super jump, super speed, and a hover ability in order to get to the end of the stage. Some levels will require you to collect a certain number of gems before the exit will open, but that’s about as complicated as it gets. Unlike similar ball-themed games, this is less about challenging your skills with brutally tough level designs and more about seeing how much you can break them.
I was immediately impressed by how how tight the controls were. Even when my marble got up to high speed, it was very still very responsive when it came to slowing down, stopping, and changing directions. The camera controls were also amazingly responsive, which was a lifesaver in many situations, especially when jumps were involved.
Purchasing Marble It Up! with no other intent than to see the ending will likely leave you disappointed. Simply clearing each stage isn’t particularly tough even in the later levels. This is definitely a game for completionists and speedrunners seeking something more in order to to fill the marble-shaped hole in their lives. Many levels contain collectables that unlock one of many alternate skins for your marble, and these are usually very well hidden. You’ll likely only find them only if you’re actively looking for them. You will most likely be doing a lot of skill to nab these trinkets, especially since many of them are placed in precarious positions that will lead to more than a few deaths.
While trying to find all the collectables may provide some longevity, time trials are where the gameplay of Marble It Up! truly shine. Each level will rank you on your performance with a medal, with the bronze medal guaranteed, getting a silver relatively easy, and getting a gold taking some effort. The platinum medal is all but nearly impossible to earn and requires mastery of ball physics and speed to accomplish in the allotted time. Even the very first level doesn’t fool around when you’re going for the best possible ranking. Thankfully, you can watch replays of the top five players on the leaderboards to discover their tricks, as well as race their ghosts to see how it’s done.
All the levels are wonderfully designed and feel unique. The stages are colorful and even the space-like void levels are a sight to behold. This comes into play even more with the gravity altering floors, which are some black floors that change the gravity and make it so your marble orients to whatever angle the floors are at. Once you’re newly oriented and the camera changes accordingly, you should be free to move with this new center of gravity. If you roll down one of these paths, you could end up moving on the wall of the platform you started on, or you could defy physics as you traverse up a big loop. This provided an excellent gameplay variant and yet added more variations to the level designs.
The graphics of Marble It Up! are nothing special, but do a great job with the minimalistic art style presented. Running at a rock solid 60 FPS, these are some slick-looking environments, with my favorite easily being the 1980s inspired stages that perfectly compliment the beat-thumping electronica soundtrack. My only main gripe about this otherwise stellar package, is that with just 40 levels you’re left wanting more, but thankfully, the developers already seem to be addressing this. There will be a developer-made level pack coming in the near future, multiplayer will be added in a future update, and a level editor will be made available for PC players, with the best user-made levels to eventually be curated and bundled into level packs for console players to enjoy. The best part about all this is that these updates will be entirely free in another great decision from the developer.
Overall, Marble It Up! is an excellent physics-based platformer that any fan of the marble rolling genre can appreciate. With beautiful graphics, an infectious techno soundtrack, intuitive gameplay, and the promise of free DLC in the future, this is one marble roller you won’t want to miss.
Review code generously provided by Sandbox Strategies.
The Bottom Line
Marble It Up! should not be as great as it is, but this fun marble roller is a blast to play and is a love letter to marble rolling games of the past. This comes highly recommended for any fans of the genre, or just fun games in general.