Marble Blast Ultra Xbox Live Review

Upon first view, Marble Blast Ultra looks a hell of a lot like one of Sega’s top titles of recent years – namely Super Monkey Ball, but upon playing the first level of the game you will find it is a quite different and arguably better beast. If you need a game to compare it to then you will have to go as far back as Marble Madness to find a likely candidate. Unlike SMB, where you tilt the level itself you have direct control of your marble in MBU. As a result of this direct control you can make your marble jump and direct it into collections of different power ups to help you advance through the level. You can take as long as you want to reach the end of any given level as there is no timer counting, but to actually complete the level you must finish it on par time.

The par time is a set time the game gives you to reach the goal. Sometimes these times can be ridiculously easy and you can finish the level well over a minute under the par time, but on some levels these times will almost drive you insane. Another feature which sets MBU apart from its competitors is the option to battle it out with numerous people online, but more about that later.

The main game is split into 60 levels which progressively get harder as you advance. In turn, these 60 levels are split into 3 separate difficulties; Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced. It takes quite a while for the game’s difficulty to ramp up, but somewhere in the middle of the intermediate levels (around level 30) you may just begin cursing and start calling the game unfair but to call MBU unfair is an injustice as it never is. The game is cleverly paced and each level never challenges you with something downright impossible or something you have not learned in a previous level. Sure it may take a large number of attempts to finish some of the latter levels, and sure you may get pissed off a high number of times during the course of play, but when you do manage to beat that level you found impossible around an hour ago, you find that it is very rewarding.

There are many different challenges each level presents you with. In the first levels it can be as simple as rolling as quick as you can to the finish, but then the game starts to throw in loads of other features. A collection of varying different power ups gives you different abilities such as super jumping, super speed, and stopping the clock for a set amount of time. Finally there is a power up that turns your marble into a gyrocopter letting you fly around the level for about 10 seconds. You can also try and combine some of the power ups (for example you can turn on your gyrocopter then pick up the super jump and soar into the skies). This combination is the only way of picking up some of the game’s power ups which are cunningly placed throughout 20 of the 60 levels. The last of the special abilities is “blast”. The blast gauge will be always filling itself up for when it is needed. This blast can be used to give your jump an extra boost to lift you out of reach or in multiplayer it can be used to knock your opponent’s marble out of your way and hopefully off a ledge.

For those of you interested in Gamerscore and achievements, the following is available to unlock:

– Timely Marble – Finish any level under par time (5 points)
– Apprentice’s Badge – Complete all Beginner levels (10 GS Points)
– Journeyman’s Badge – Complete all Intermediate levels (15 GS points)
– Adept’s badge – Complete all Advanced levels (25 GS points)
– Marble-fu initiate – Finish all Beginner levels under par time (15 GS points)
– Marble-fu Master – Finish all Intermediate levels under par time (25 GS points)
– Marble-fu Transcendent – Finish all Advanced levels under par time (35 GS points)
– Egg seeker – find any hidden easter egg (5 GS points)
– Egg basket – Find all twenty easter eggs (25 GS points)
– First Place – Get first place in a multiplayer match (10 GS points)
– Gem Collector – Get 75 points in a multiplayer match (10 GS points)
– Veteran Battler – Collect 2,000 total points in multiplayer (20 GS points)

Overall

Marble Blast Ultra is a welcoming mix of many genres. It is part platformer and part puzzler. It has a fun multiplayer mode which at times only can be described as a clusterf**k as everyone dives for the gems available. It is a highly challenging game and not everyone will end up finishing the whole game as some of the par times are almost unattainable. Best of all this great title costs less than a tenner (800 points in Microsoft speak), and for that price you get undoubtedly one of the top titles available for download on Xbox Live Arcade today.

7.3 out of 10

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