Review by RooCH

Reviewed: 02/09/06 | Updated: 12/18/06

Simple brilliance - A RooCH review

Back in the heady days of the Atari ST, I was never terribly interested in puzzle games, nor was the platforming genre really 'my thing'. But there was a game released for that system that went by the name "Marble madness" which really caught my attention. It basically took a 2D isometric view of a landscape and asked you to guide a marble around varying landscapes. There were strict time limits and it was BRICK hard, but I loved playing it.

Now it's 2006 and Microsoft have created the Xbox live arcade, I was overjoyed to find the game recreated, revamped and more importantly renamed to Marble blast ultra. This was the first, and at the moment the last arcade game I have ever actually purchased, and I haven't regretted a second of it.

Now, when taking the graphics of this game into account we have to look at it realistically. It's a freakin' marble. There's not much one can do with a sphere to make it look fancy, BUT! In saying that, the people who made this game did an incredible job! There are roughly 40 different skins available, ranging from your classic glass sphere, to the madness of tie dye, and my personal choice, a bizarre leather style marble with tie's around a seam. It reminded me of leatherhead from Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Never mind. So yeah, very very impressive range. Next, the levels. Well, for a collection of platforms, I have to admit, they made them look nice! Very polished and with different grains depicting different surfaces. All in all, a very polished production.

Absolute GENIUS. The controls are incredibly simple, left stick to steer your marble, and it is EXACTLY sensitive enough to be precise as hell. Right stick for your camera, and I personally have never had my camera stick, or clip or mess up in any way whatsoever. 'A' to jump, which is a brilliant feature not seen in the old Marble madness game. 'X' to blast, which is basically a small explosion either used to gain height, or hit opponents in multiplayer (See lower). And finally the right trigger to use the 'pick-ups' dotted around various maps. And that is it, you just roll around attempting to get the best times. There are shortcuts, special pick ups that allow turbo's, high jumps, even a rotor for some amateur flying action. There are also various different tiles for your marble to traverse including ice, metal, griptape and trapdoors. Much fun!

Now this really could have been the nail in the coffin for this game, because NO ONE like the sound of glass hitting a hard surface, so, they removed it! Instead there are simple bumps and clicks to represent the hits and rebounds. None of the sounds are even slightly annoying, and the unusual burst noise used for the blasts and the winning portal are actually quite gratifying!

And once again, the game exceeds! Now how do you take a game about getting the best time, and make it multiplayer, well two ways basically. There is a leaderboard for all of the times that a certain level has been tried. Every time you complete the map, your score will be updated to your best time, and that will be compared with the thousands of other players to see who truly is the marble master. But the other multiplayer option, is FAR more amusing. Take up to 8 marbles, put them on varied and interesting landscapes, and have a treasure hunt!! You basically have to get a series of gems to score points. Red gems are worth one point, yellow two points and blue five points. And it's a free for all to get the most points in the allotted time!! As you can imagine, with 8 marbles all going for a single blue gem, it can be totally hectic. The power ups are used to their fullest here, with the mega marble being a personal favourite, who gets the gem, the 7 regular sized marbles or the CRICKET BALL!!! Immense amounts of fun and frustration, handed out in equal measurements.

The fact is, it's all here. The single player is awesome, the multiplayer is even better. The game has been polished beyond reason and it really is incredible that the game is only a few quid to purchase. If you haven't given the Xbox live arcade a chance yet, this is the game to turn you. It is beautiful and incredibly well produced to create an unrivalled platform puzzle experience. A must have.


Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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