Marble Worlds 2 - A Retro IPhone Experience
Retro style games have been a bit of a dying breed at late. With the innovation of the iPhone sparking that 'quick fix' feeling in your everyday gamer, there isn't much room for games that take time, effort and skill. Marble Worlds 2, created by Limelight Studios, is one such game. From the beginning, all the way to the end of the game, you must take measured steps, and factor in risk vs reward, for an altogether satisfying experience.
You begin life as a marble set out on a quest to do whatever great marbles trapped inside a maze with no real exits and a horde of evil marbles would set out to do, survive. There is no plot involved in Marble World 2 and it doesn't need it, as the game is far too haphazard to have any real storyline placed behind it.
Along the way, your marble must collect several gems to open the way to later stages. On contact with the last gem you need to collect (10 to begin with) you are mystically sucked away into a new world. One of the brilliant features I found within the game was that you weren't forced into collecting specific gems on a truly linear path, often, you can go wherever you want to, however you want to.
Your marble will often end up facing some trying challenges. Life as a death defying marble after all, is hard work. Sometimes you must use an Air-blower to get you to rise to a higher platform, or be extremely precise as you navigate your marble through a set of pinball table like bouncers. Finally, you will likely face off against the Evil Marble, who will attempt to predict your movements and harass you, potentially destroying you.
It is hard work being this marble, and life doesn't stop there. With having to make blind leaps of faith, bounce off trampolines, be shot into the air like you are in a cannon, and having to rack your marbles shiny brain in an effort to solve some fiendish, switch based, puzzles. And you have only 5 lives to do it in.
Here is where the problem of the game for most people will lie. You get only 5 lives and if you run out of lives you can continue using many of the games generated checkpoints. The issue is that when you continue, you only get the amount of lives you had when you were at that checkpoint. This, coupled with some absolutely insane puzzle design, will keep you bested for hours at a time.
Graphically, the game is horrible to look at. It is unfortunate that the iPhone version suffers from this, as these days everything is about first impressions. I imagine this game is much more successful on early colour mobile phones, which is about the level of graphics the game comes with. An updated graphics tileset would be a great boon to this game.
Music and sound are very abstract, with many different environmental pieces playing in the background to try and persuade you you are out in a lush forest somewhere, instead of the gruelling 256 colour maze you currently inhabit. Sound issues are frequent in the version I played, but I know many people play games with the sound off anyway, so this won't be an issue for them.
Gameplay is frustrating at times. With a game that relies so seriously on precise movements, you would think you would be able to control your marble down to a pixel. But it is not the case, as you will often find yourself just overshooting the area necessary to get past those two 'bouncers' without them flinging you half way across the screen. The accelerometer makes a return, but is thankfully only required to be on for very few sections of the game.
With all these flaws, you would almost think I don't like the game, but this can't be further from the truth. I love Marble Worlds 2, because it takes a simple, well used game concept (Marble maze games have been around almost as long as Pong), and wraps a few interesting design choices and then increases the difficulty to 11. And in a game world where almost every game is handed to you on a silver platter to enjoy, a game that actually challenges you is refreshing indeed.
In fact, the game strongly resembles on of the first in the genre, Marble Madness, with a similar design philosophy and excruciatingly difficult gameplay. Altogether, the game throws out a great retro vibe, something I haven't truly felt for years and certainly something I wasn't expecting to find, in an iPhone game. Being such a break from fast paced, action packed titles is wonderful.
The game sells for a fairly expensive £2.99 ($4.99 US) but with that you get 250 levels, and about 12+ hours of gameplay (depending on level of skill). The game is definitely a 'play at home or on your lunch break' affair, since when you fail a jump for the third time in a row, you don't want your co-workers hearing you swear.
Having said all this, the game will not be the sort of game that will entice most gamers. The difficulty level is so high, and the penalty for death so huge, that a large majority of gamers will want to break their iPhone by the 30th level. If you are used to being able to rush through games, or are after that quick fix, then Marble Worlds 2 is not for you. If you are after strategic gameplay, with occasional frenzied action however, then you can't go past this game.