Video games where you control a marble or a ball of some sort around an obstacle course is nothing new. While a lot of people may think of the Monkey Ball series when that topic comes up, others may think back even further to the days of the arcade classic Marble Madness. The goals of these games were to get a ball, marble, or other round object from the starting point to the goal, usually by rolling the object itself or, in the case of Monkey Ball, moving the stage itself around to make the ball go where you want it to. Today we have another of those types of games on the Nintendo Switch so let’s Marble It Up…man, that was a bad joke.
The goal of Marble It Up is to roll your marble around each 3D stage and get to the goal. Sometimes it’s just getting to the goal, while other times you have to maneuver around the stage collecting gems before the goal appears. You can always see on the screen the general direction a gem or the goal is in so you’re not completely running around like a marble with its head cut off. The stages can also be littered with several powerups including lightning bolts to give you a burst of speed, feathers to make you fall slowly for a few seconds, a pause icon to slow down the timer for a few seconds, and an arrow to make you jump up high. You have to combine those items with your maneuvering and basic jumping to complete each course as fast as possible.
The game consists of around forty stages with some as simple as just rolling the marble around some curves, maybe up a wall or two, while others can essentially be mazes. The physics of the marble seems pretty spot on. Then again I’ve never tried to move a real marble via an Xbox 360 controller so one can only speculate. You can move the marble in any direction, but the faster you’re rolling the more difficult it can be to slow down, stop entirely, or even turn around corners. Each stage tracks your fastest times and rewards medals depending on how fast you complete them, so a lot of the skill needed for fast times comes down to knowing when to start slowing down to take the turns or even when to just start turning around an obstacle or corner.
The first ten or so stages basically act as the game’s tutorial and teaches you everything you need to know about the items, mechanics, and other nuances of the game, and the other stages don’t really get any easier from there. However, one of my favorite aspects of this game comes from its replayability. Even though the game is short, you can replay any stage in an attempt to improve your time to earn a silver or gold medal, or even a diamond one which isn’t listed on the stage preview screen. To hit these low times you’ll have to start thinking outside of the box a bit. In some stages it’s simply cutting corners where you can and learning how best to utilize your marble’s momentum. In others it’s literally about finding shortcuts or taking risks. Once you get to the later stages you’ll have to put everything you’ve learned to the ultimate test as well as adding in one new mechanic that’ll I’ll admit took me a while to learn: patience.
The final set of stages are, naturally, the toughest in the game and will throw some stuff your way that you might not have encountered yet, or in very small chunks. One of the final stages for example has you trying to keep your marble on a moving platform and falling off means restarting the stage since there’s only one platform and there are a lot of obstacles to maneuver around so you don’t fall off. A stage or two later has you on moving platforms again, only now they’re more narrow and more complicated to keep on top off. Plus you have to basically work your way up a tower with a couple of these moving platforms. Needless to say I spent the majority of my time in these final stages, which brings me to probably my biggest complaint about the game: it’s really short. Forty stages might seem like a lot but they go by really quick.
So aside from getting better times, is there anything else that would make you want to replay the stages over and over again? Well, sort of. There are some unlockables in the form of different marbles you can play as. Yep…unlockable marbles that act no differently than your standard everyday marble. What’s even better is how you unlock them. Some are found by getting all silver or gold medals in various worlds or in all stages. Some are unlocked by beating the hidden diamond times I mentioned earlier. Others are literally just lying around some stages in incredibly difficult to reach locations. The good news is when you go into the Customization option on the main menu and hover over each locked marble, it’ll tell you exactly how to unlock it, including which stages have hidden marbles in them, so luckily it’s not just a guessing game for how to unlock that awesome smiley face marble that I tend to use as it reminds me that this is just a game each time I flail myself off a stage.
Personal issues with a few of the final stages aside, there’s a lot to like with Marble it Up. The later stages are challenging and even getting that elusive diamond medal on the early stages is challenging as you have to think outside the box on a lot of them for finding shortcuts and getting around. Honestly as someone who’s into speedrunning, that’s probably my favorite aspect of the game. However, the fact that the game is pretty short is somewhat off putting. I’ve read that there are plans for some DLC including new level packs, which I’m looking forward to. Until then though, there’s not a lot to the game so far and for twenty dollars, it’s pretty much up to you to decide if it’s worth it for forty stages and some unlockable aesthetics. While the later stages can be tough, most of the stages won’t take you very long to get through and if you’re not worried about getting better times to unlock some new marble designs, there’s really not much to the game at all.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.