So good, you'll lose your marbles!!
Lost Marbles - Marble Blast & The Lost Vikings had a baby! I’ll be the first to admit I was highly skeptical of Lost Marbles, a new indie marble-puzzle title pushing for release through Steam Greenlight. Even as I watched a gameplay video that demonstrated how exactly the title combined elements from two retro titles with cult followings, willing my game’s download to progress faster, I struggled to comprehend how the experience could flow smoothly while truly troubling the gamer.
After mere minutes with the game, however, everything became clear.
In all my time with games, very few titles have presented as easy-going an experience as Lost Marbles. This is in part due to the simplistic nature of the title -- the concept driving the experience is rather basic, and leaves little room for drastic errors to occur. However, for those small bugs that did creep about every now and again, developer Binary Takeover was as accommodating as it gets in finding the cause of (and eradicating) any issues with their new product.
The experience begins in Story mode, where players are gradually introduced to the mechanics of play. Players must guide all the marbles on a given level to the finish line in spectacular, 3D platform/puzzle levels. At first, this is a single marble, switching between a bouncy marble, a lightweight paper ball, and a stone, fast-rolling ball. Beyond this point of the main mode, however, players must control multiple marbles and combine their abilities to beat puzzles and reach the finish line.
The incorporation of the puzzle element, combined with perfect level-design, really allows Lost Marbles to shine. Combining classic platform elements like switches with the specific abilities of each marble simply works. For example, players may need to guide their paper ball into the path of a fan, which blows the ball over to a remote island. From here, players hit a switch, allowing their bouncy marble to board a moving platform. Conversely, players may need to block the airflow of a fan with the stone marble to allow the paper ball to pass through to a new area of a stage.
It is the depth of level design and variation of winning solutions that makes the initial playthrough so challenging. For a puzzle game, such challenge is essential, and therefore Lost Marbles will appeal to all puzzle lovers out there.
Beyond the story mode playthrough, two elements will keep players coming back for more. First is hardcore mode. This is a run through of all the game’s levels where any death will take you back to the previous challenge, locking later stages. Essentially, to beat hardcore mode, players need to beat the entire story mode without a dying. This is a considerable challenge and will offer great replayability to players, greatly increasing the value of this little gem.
Finally, there’s the fact that levels are timed, not unlike Super Meat Boy. This challenges players to find new solutions to each level in an attempt to be the fastest. Online leaderboards enforce vast levels of replayability. Personally, I spent hours trying to perfect strategies on each level to reach the top ten times, and the addictive and simplistic nature of the title will have many new players doing the same.
It is all of these elements of gameplay and extra value that make the Lost Marbles experience so compelling; one that should be experienced by all who call themselves “gamers”, especially considering the minute $10 price-tag. It may not offer an hours-long campaign or a deep storyline, but the uniqueness of the title along with the replay value that is offered makes Binary Takeover’s new title a must-have for all.
In terms of presentation, this little gem does little wrong to turn players away. While the visual style is incredibly basic, it is a look that feels natural. The crispness of the visuals enhances this effect. These graphics are accompanied by a bouncy, tranquil soundtrack to create a peaceful, easy-going atmosphere that so quickly becomes the most attractive element of this title.
Having said that, Lost Marbles is not perfect. Despite having very solid gameplay mechanics, and several gameplay modes designed to enhance replay value, one can't help but feel that the thirty levels included are not enough. There is little to after mastering all these levels. This concern could be eradicated with the distribution of free level-packs, a move I strongly hope the developer makes in the near future. Regardless, there is still plenty of content to make this title worthy of your hard-earned.
The Final Verdict
While at first a seemingly-small game, Lost Marbles offers plenty of fresh content for those smart enough to make the purchase. The hardcore mode offers a supreme challenge for those brave enough to take the plunge, while the inclusion of leaderboards strongly enhances the replay value of this title. A great concept becomes a perfect package thanks to beautiful presentation, making this title one of the best puzzle-platformers on the market.