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Marble Blast Ultra

Score: 90%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Garage Games
Developer: Garage Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 (2 - 8 online)
Genre: Puzzle/ Arcade

Graphics & Sound:

Marble Blast Ultra is a fresh, new twist on a classic concept. Like the PSP launch title Mercury, Marble Blast Ultra takes the Marble Madness concept and rolls with it.

Though this game doesn't have you mixing globs of colored goo like the aforementioned PSP game, Marble Blast Ultra's huge levels and various power ups make this a puzzle game to remember. The game sports very simple graphics; the levels are made up of ramps, platforms and variations on basic geometric shapes, but the simple design mixed with the complex levels really help to draw you in.

The game's audio is just as simple as its visuals. Each sound effect is quick and concise, but seems to fit the situation perfectly. Whether it is using the Super Jump power up or hovering around with the helicopter attachment, the game's sound effects are dead on. The background music also does a good job of pulling you in. Its low-key rhythm helps to keep your ears busy, but never becomes annoying, repetitive or distracting.


Gameplay:

Marble Blast Ultra is split up into two modes, Single-player and Multiplayer. Single-player is again divided up into three groups, Beginner, Intermediate and Expert, each with 20 levels.

Each level will have you collecting gems scattered all over the levels. In order to get them, you will have to nab a wide variety of power-ups that will let you hover or grow to a super-sized ball or speed off in a direction like a rocket. You will have to roll up ramps, hop over stairs and work your way through winding roadways in order to find all of the gems you need before you can exit the level and check your time.

Marble Blast Ultra also sports 10 different levels to use online. The multiplayer levels are designed to cause you and the (up to) seven other players to collide and bounce all around in an attempt to get the most gems before the clock runs out. Both online and off, Marble Blast Ultra is an example of the conceptually-simple game that is just downright addictive and fun to play.


Difficulty:

Difficulty is an odd thing in Marble Blast Ultra. No level seems to be hard, but as you progress, it will typically take more and more attempts before you are completely satisfied with your final outcome. Since there is no score and you can access any level at any time, you are pretty much grading yourself and constantly pushing yourself to do the level faster and better.

Each level has a set par time, and though you don't have to pay attention to it, various achievements are linked to how many (or which) levels you complete under par. Like I said, no level is impossible to beat, but there are quite a few that are hard to get past under the time suggestion.


Game Mechanics:

Like the rest of the game, Marble Blast Ultra's mechanics are very simple. You use one stick to control the ball, and one stick to control the camera. The A button or left trigger lets you jump, while the X or right button fires off one of your bombs to give you just a little more of a boost. The right trigger or B button uses whatever power-up you last grabbed.

The mechanics of the power-ups are what makes Marble Blast Ultra so unique. Though there are only a few power-ups, you will need them to solve whatever puzzle the developers have put in front of you. Use the Super Speed power-up to go up long and steep ramps, while Super Jump gets you onto really high cliffs. Other power-ups include the Time Traveler which temporarily stops the clock and the Gravity Modifier rotates the world so you can roll up walls.

It is because of these power-ups that you can have small but strange levels like "Around the World" where you have to constantly rotate the arena (a cube) in order to collect all of the gems.

Simply put, this is a fun puzzle game that pretty much anyone should find enjoyable. If you have the spare time, then definitely download the demo from the Xbox 360 Live Arcade -- once you've mastered that, you should be convinced to buy the full game.


-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

Windows Core Defender Macintosh DROD (Deadly Rooms of Death): Journey to Rooted Hold

 
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