Thank you to Sandbox Strategies for the review code!
We have entered an age in which technology plays a major role in the childhood of many. This has both positive and negative effects, but one thing is undeniable. Many of the things people once considered a staple in childhood no longer hold that position. Marbles are one of the simple, yet captivating toys that many people have fond memories of as children. Whether it was rolling them down the stairs, building elaborate courses, or simply comparing the seemingly infinite amount of designs, marbles always brought entertainment and happiness to those who used them. So, is it a surprise that a game series would emerge that is centered around marbles? Marble It Up! is not the first of its kind; it is actually a spiritual successor to older titles like Marble Blast. When scrutinized under today's standards, this latest installment, while great at its core, falls short in a few areas.
One of the most profound aspects of a marble is its inertia. Of course, at the age of 5, I didn't understand what inertia was; I just began to understand that the ball wouldn't always change direction when I wanted it to. So, in a video game about marbles, it would be unfair to just create a spherical player model and call it a marble. To truly believe that I control a marble in Marble It Up!, I wanted the ball to have tight controls yet still follow the laws of physics. After playing the game, I believe the properties of the ball were emulated very accurately. Rolling starts off slow, before quickly picking up momentum that becomes hard to stop. Jumps aren't fully in your control and will go awry if not calculated correctly. Of course, this is a video game, so some features will be included that obviously do not exist in the real world. In Marble It Up!, the power-up system falls under this category. These offer a variety of effects, such as stopping time or drastically increasing the velocity of the ball. Even though there aren't small, rotating lighting bolts in real life, the power-ups still maintain some accuracy to physics. A speed boost could send your marble careening off a cliff, or colliding into a wall. Like many things we interact with as children, we rarely understand the extent of the science behind marbles. Luckily, Marble It Up! manages to emulate these features very well, creating an immersive, enjoyable title.
With such an accurate physics system, it makes sense for Marble It Up! to primarily focus on platforming in its stages. There are 40 levels; each has a unique look, and the vast majority were fun to play and implemented a specific concept. Each stage is a race against the clock, in an attempt to score the best time possible and stay in the threshold for a gold medal. After the first few stages, the requirements for gold become less and less lenient, so it should provide a decent challenge for those after one. The courses usually are either linear or task you with collecting gems to finish the stage. The developers clearly knew what they wanted to create, as most stages take full advantage of the physics behind the ball's movement. This isn't a 3D Mario; you won't find yourself fighting enemies and bosses. Instead, you'll have to be a quick thinker as you try to find an optimal path to clear a stage. The game is definitely meant for short bursts as opposed to extended play, as each stage was short but satisfying to complete.
Sadly, the short length of each stage contributes to a larger problem: the lack of content in the game. For the price it is being sold at, I expected a bit more in terms of length. What's here is certainly not bad, but it leaves a lot to be desired. Although the developers are working on a level maker, only a curated selection will be available on console, which could also be sold as opposed to simply being patched into the game. If the developers decide to implement paid DLC, there must be some free content added first, or else the entry price will be too high. Also, the only forms of progression besides unlocking new levels is unlocking new marble designs. This is nice, but doesn't make up for the lack of other content. If you are into getting gold medals on every stage, then that will add another hour or two to your playtime, but I personally am not going to aim for it. Although it has a few things to occupy players after the main game is complete, Marble It Up! suffers from a lack of content for its price point overall.
Marble It Up!'s presentation is definitely a positive, though. Each stage looks different from the last, though some of the textures are reused. The marbles, the star of the show, have many fine features and reflect light perfectly in order to give them the glassy look they need. I'll admit that I spent more time than is right just admiring the models of the marbles. The game doesn't sound bad, though it's hardly a masterpiece. None of the music is very memorable, but it had a nice synergy with the presentation and gameplay which made the game more relaxing. Though not the best thing in the game, Marble It Up!'s presentation plays a strong role sending the atmosphere of the game in the right thematic direction.
There isn't anything morally wrong about Marble It Up! It's a game about marbles rolling around, and I scrutinized the game in order to ensure there was nothing wrong. No, the marbles are not murdering each other or forming cults. The game has no morality issues at all, no matter how hard I looked for them.
Marble It Up! is a great game at its core, but ends up suffering from content problems. I love how the game controls and the level design that was created as a result. However, I could purchase many other games with much more content for the $20 price tag. What turns a great game into a good one could be remedied with a few substantial content updates. I recommend waiting to see how the developer supports the game in the future before purchasing, or wait until a sale. If you are a true marble enthusiast, Marble It Up! is likely one of the best experiences there is for marble-based games, but the severe lack of content makes it hard to recommend to everyone right now.