4Pocket’s Marble Worlds appears to be a title that draws its spiritual inspiration from an arcade classic called Marble Madness. The exception is, this time, Marble Worlds appears on the Pocket PC and the developers have crafted a colorful isometric engine to bring that world to bear. What is Marble Worlds about though? It’s a set of stages where you must guide a red marble through a maze of obstacles, almost like a gauntlet. Fear not for those who have a deficiency with platform games since you can save and load your progress at any time during the game.
The resulting gameplay, though, is paced deliberately slow. Save for a few moving obstacles and a rogue competing marble who chases you, Marble Worlds takes a methodical approach in playing out its hand. Your marble, for example, doesn’t move too fast and only gathers enough inertia to be speedy on its way down slopes or ramps. This is as it should be in the laws of physics but it is a point where some extra-physic creativity might save the game from some of its own frustration. Even the menu has an animation attached to it that opens up slowly. Thus, for most of the stages, there aren’t any pressures to move you along. But likewise, there aren’t any guides to help you when you’re idle, which probably is the most troublesome part of the game – the inability to know which set of obstacles needs to be traversed next.
There is no denying the fact that Marble Worlds is an attractive game all-around. Its isometric engine looks to be capable enough to handle much more than the content illustrated here. The various bombs, slight particle effects, bouncing pads and hidden secrets are all suggestive that the engine is very adept indeed. Marble Worlds also features four different motifs: Castle, Egypt, Metal Blocks and Computerized designs. Each style is distinct and there is a wide-range of colors used from the artists’ palette. The levels themselves often have an Escher-like geometrical allure to it, something that you can appreciate even if it’s not totally functional.
Aurally, Marble Worlds is equally filled with sound effects. Passing your marble by water tiles will beget some running water sounds. Curiously, Marble Worlds is reserved in its soundtrack. With so many themes involved and a tendency for the game to oscillate from suspense to calm, there’s a lot of opportunity to introduce some interesting ambient music.
It’s hard to fault Marble Worlds. It’s an inquisitive game that requires an audience of the same mind. That absolute and inflexible requirement will deter those not used to its style of play. More aids, like pointing arrows and a guided tutorial on the controls, may be better for the learning curve. Because Marble Worlds rests on a delicate manipulation of controls, it also precludes that most of your productive gaming will have to be done sitting still. That doesn’t mean the controls themselves are unresponsive. In fact, the handheld keys may respond well but the precision demanded with them is dictated in part by the level design.
However, the spectacles demonstrated here, both in the visual and audio range, obviously suggests that there could be more done. I found myself hoping for a hyper-marble mode, to see how this game would play out at a faster pace, not unlike platform titles found in consoles. There’s a certain rhythm to Marble Worlds, not necessarily exclusive to one factor (say, marble speed) of the game. Remove the marble context from Marble Worlds and the platform game that results is a bit clumsy, like a dancer who occasionally loses the beat. I have on my hands another game, much more closely aligned with the arcade progenitor, Marble Madness. And even a cursory glance of two will say this, undoubtedly, is the superior marble title.
[10/10] Program Size
[08/15] Learning Curve
[ N/A ] Multiplayer