Who remembers the 1984 arcade classic Marble Madness? Not many, I’d wager. Though hopelessly outdated by contemporary standards, in its day it was innovative and addictive, simple to grasp yet complex to master. The good folks at Lightning Rock have taken the aforementioned game and used it as a creative springboard for their first commercial iOS release, Marble Mountain. But have they been successful in transposing an old idea to new technology? Roll on the verdict.
Pitched as an adventure title, Marble Mountain has a basic premise that, like its predecessor, is simple yet complex. You control a marble that rolls down a series of stages, dodging obstacles and striving to keep your marble from teetering off the edge of the sheer cliff-face of the mountainside. You manoeuvre the little ball by tilting your iPhone or iPad in the direction you want the marble to move, as if you were balancing it on top of the device. The more you tilt, the more speed you gather. For a game that hinges on precise and timely movements and adjustments, the controls are a complete success. Much like the ideal boyfriend, they’re intuitive, sensitive, and never feel like they’re trying too hard. It’s easy to get into the swing of the game and literally get the ball rolling the very first time you set it up.
It’s addictive little play style had me engaged with it most of the evening. The graphics are gorgeous, with a variety of levels available to the player, ranging from snow-capped peaks to ancient, runic graveyards. The look and feel of the environment reminded me of the old Sonic the Hedgehog games from the 90s; I don’t know if that was a conscious influence on the developers, but I appreciated the nostalgia! The level design has to be commended for being continually original, never failing to excite. The variety of imaginative obstacles is comprehensive, ranging from molten lava to a full-on avalanche. You’re never quite sure what’s round the corner on Marble Mountain.
The soundtrack also deserves praise; a blistering medley of ice-cool 80s electro rock accompanies your descent. One small downfall of the game is the lack of checkpoints; if you slip off the side of the mountain (an event which occurred for me with alarming regularity), you have to go right back to the beginning of the level. Zen-like levels of patience are required when you fall at a final hurdle, and the skillset needed for some of the later stages is comprehensive to say the least. However, this only adds to the feeling of achievement once you succeed in the game, the difficulty being testament to the intricate and creative design. All in all, Marble Mountain is one of the most engaging games I’ve yet to encounter for iOS, and anyone looking for a challenge should scale up it as soon as possible.