Review: Marble It Up! (Switch)

Keep on rolling, baby.

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 11/08/2018 13:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
1-Up Mushroom for...
Fun gameplay; rolling mechanics and physics make the marble movement feel authentic; soundtrack is upbeat and matches the gameplay; lots to discover
Poison Mushroom for...
Despite offering forty stages, still feels overly short; some challenges require unintuitive solutions to overcome

What is it with video games and rolling around? Super Monkey Ball, Marble Madness, Katamari Damacy… there’s a long list of titles as far back as NES that feature rolling around the environment, whether as a marble or something else. I suppose it’s like shooter games in that it doesn’t take much for the mind to come to terms with the mechanics in these titles; point and shoot, roll, etc. That tradition is showing no signs of slowing down thanks to Marble It Up!, developed and published by, well… Marble It Up! That keeps things simple enough. Which can also be said of the gameplay itself. This is a somewhat no frills experience that manages to do quite a bit with an arguably spartan setup. So, while it’s not going to knock anyone’s socks off, it’s nonetheless an entertaining (albeit brief) addition to the eShop.

The objective in Marble It Up! is simple: get to the end of the stage without falling off the edge and try to earn a gold medal every time. There are four chapters with ten different stages apiece for players to make their way through. While that alone might sound a bit blasé, thankfully the development team added in some extra goodies to keep things interesting. There are a number of power-ups that do everything from grant speed boosts to power jumps, while sprinkled throughout the different levels are hidden collectibles. These secret items require some careful manipulation of the marble as well as some skillful use of the different power-ups.

Earning gold medals, meanwhile, boils down to speed. Get to the end goal as fast as possible in order to maximize the score and get the best medal possible. It’s very straightforward, even with the addition of hidden collectibles and power-ups, but it quickly becomes very engaging. Part of that is owed to the ease with which the marble can be moved around. It glides across the ground very smoothly and it’s easy to build-up speed thanks to the abundance of hills and slopes combined with the (fairly) faithful physics engine. The marble feels like a marble, if that makes any sense. It rolls and hits things more or less the way I’d expect a giant marble to.

Marble It Up! has an interesting visual quality. It’s reminiscent of Shin’en’s Jett Rocket on WiiWare in that it has some utterly gorgeous textures and lighting going on. It all even runs at a buttery 60fps whether docked or undocked. At the same time, the visuals are still slightly underwhelming. There just isn’t a lot going on in these stages. It all looks pretty enough, but it somehow nonetheless manages to feel overly basic. It’s nothing bad and I certainly got enjoyment from much of what I was looking at. In a weird way, Marble It Up! made me think of Nintendo 64. The game, from its geometric landscapes and techno soundtrack, feels like something that would have been right at home on the system. Marble It Up!‘s minimalist aesthetic and menus have all the trappings of that era of gaming.

The courses themselves do boast some creative design, however. At their best, Marble It Up!‘s tracks look like a marriage of Super Mario Galaxy and Super Monkey Ball. While speed is the overall objective to get those gold medals, it’s evident that the design team wanted players to soak in the sights along the way. What’s more, this title also has some puzzle game in its DNA, as chaining power-ups to get from one spot to another can require some legit thinking to accomplish. There are even a multitude of skins that can be unlocked for the marble for those looking to expand the humble sphere’s wardrobe. Again, Marble It Up! has a spark to it that’s reminiscent of the good old N64 days when 3D gaming was new and developers seemed bursting with new ideas to try out.

Still, for all that Marble It Up! gets right, it just can’t overcome the fact that it’s unspectacular. The gameplay feels somewhat rote by the end, even if I could never say I wasn’t enjoying myself. Well, for the most part. Some of the hidden collectibles were outrageously positioned, I felt. Early on in the stage Duality, one collectible can be glimpsed on a high peak. As I zoomed around the stage, I realized that a succession of power-ups had been laid that would allow me to reach the collectible. The only problem was that the means of getting to the first power-up required an insanely tricky jump that I just could never naturally nail, and even after making it, the return trip was equally treacherous and unintuitive. Which is to say nothing of the power-up itself, which was similarly unintuitive in its use. It’s possible to view other players’ runs through stages, but it isn’t a positive to have to watch someone else solve a puzzle in order to figure it out for oneself.

Another issue that holds Marble It Up! back is its camera. Now, this isn’t a pure racing game, as plenty of stages require exploration and not just blinding speed, but the decision to have a camera that doesn’t automatically track player movement was an odd one. The camera is entirely manual in its manipulation (and to its credit is very easy to manipulate), which I tend to enjoy in games like The Legend of Zelda. In a title like Marble It Up!, however, it felt slightly strange devoting time to positioning the camera on top of steering the marble. It certainly works more often than not, and as I pointed out before, there’s a lot of fun to be had here. Yet, ultimately Marble It Up! comes across as a game that is partially underdeveloped. There’s a solid foundation that’s been built, but it’s not going to be a game that wows or amazes its players.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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