|Universal App:||Yes (there is a single app which works on both iPhone and iPad in HD)|
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|Purchase for iPad:||
GD Star RatingMarble Monster,
What exactly does it take for a game to rise above the tide of faceless clones ripping off the big boys? In this hyper-competitive sphere of the gaming world, a game needs to be exceptional to be noticed, it needs to provide something new, even if new just happens to be a brilliant spin on an old idea. This was neither complicated nor the most original concept, but it worked brilliantly as a sharp little puzzler. Does Marble Monster, from Outline Development, bring anything to the table to make it stand above the rest?
Marble Monster, not to be confused with Marble Monster Mobile, has a fairly simple premise. You are a monster who’s obsessed with pushing a bright red marble into a pit in the middle of a game board. Why the titular monster cares so much about taking this red marble back to its lair, I cannot say. Perhaps it’s a critique of the folly and self-destructiveness of desire, that ultimately all desires can be reduced to a single red marble being pushed into a hole.
However, making this existential satisfaction difficult, are a number of black marbles which cannot pass over the center hole. To make things a little more complicated, every move by the monster must also move another marble in one direction.
This is what Marble Monster is, a block moving puzzle from something you might find in a Zelda dungeon. There are two modes, Puzzle and Marathon, though Marathon mode was unavailable at the time of this review. There are 60 stages in Puzzle mode, clustered together in groups of 15 phases of “Challenges” The only difference between any of these challenge sections seems to be the number of black marbles, though that alone is enough to turn your thinking caps on and get the brain juices flowing.
The game has a circular board, not unlike an old Chinese Checkers board, and a few marbles scattered around it. Now, there might be multiple solutions to each puzzle, but there’s no real variation in how they are ultimately solved. None of the puzzles are terribly complicated, but in a way that’s part of the relaxing charm of Marble Monster. Once you understand the solution to a puzzle, there’s a kind of easy satisfaction in quickly moving blocks out of the way. On the more complicated stages, it’s easy to fall into a kind of tapping rhythm as your monster pushes away blocks.
And speaking of the monster, a cutesy, large, lightly animated monster in the bottom left hand corner serves as the player’s encouragement as you progress through levels, and reminded me heavily of those educational games of yore, no stress, just something that might entertain children. It would have been good to have a little more personality from the monster, but it’s cute enough to draw the eye as you’re playing, and the fact that it’s even animated does a good job of making it feel more alive.
One slight criticism here would be that movement itself can be unresponsive at times. To move your monster, simply swipe in the direction you wish to move or tap on marble you want to move. Commands needed to operate the game are straightforward enough, but the game seems to suffer from interpreting swipes incorrectly at times, which is an issue not uncommon among many iPad board games that are available on the market. There are only 6 directions the monster can move, but I was frustrated when my monster refused to move at my command when my swipes were less precise. There was no issue with tapping, except that the marbles are a little small on an iPhone screen and felt a little cramped with so little screen real estate, though this was less of an issue on an iPad or larger device.
To the credit of the developers, they did add a backspace and reset button, which really alleviated most of the tension I was feeling when my monster pushed its marble one step too far, or walked into an unsolvable position. Without this button, I probably would have snapped my phone in half after the first few attempts or incorrect movement swipes.
Production values are sufficient for the game to get its point across. There’s an instruction page, leaderboards, separate mute options for the music and sound effects, and a credits page. It’s quick and to the point, and honestly not too bad. There’s only 3 music tracks in the game, so a little more variety there would have been appreciated, but the tracks themselves are serviceable. An in-game mute option allows you to play in silence, which I found I preferred after a while. It would have been nice to also have a little more variation in board graphics, perhaps some kind of skin swap to show that I’ve progressed to a new challenge. Some kind of reward for players would also serve as a form of encouragement to help this innocuous game hold the player’s attention for longer and increase to the game’s level of addiction, creating the urge to play a few minutes whenever they are waiting in line.
Serviceable as a puzzler, Marble Monster is adequate in every way. There are no glaring technical issues, and there’s something oddly relaxing about pushing blocks while the titular monster watches from his perch. As a game that seems mostly directed towards children, the puzzles may not a brain-cell killer for older gamers, but younger ones might love the light touch of character from the monster. If you’re looking for a game for younger gamers that doesn’t include the temptation of micro-transactions, it may very well pay off to give Marble Monster a shot.
Check out other great games:
- Straightforward, intuitive gameplay
- No micro-transactions
- Appealing design with cute monster avatar
- Does not detect user command at times (swipes)
- Limited sense of progression