Back in the early days of the Xbox 360, there were only a handful of games available for download on the Xbox Live Marketplace. Some of them weren’t so great, but many like Geometry Wars and UNO have cemented their places as classics of the time. For me though, the one that stands above them all is little known game called “Marble Blast Ultra.” It was one of those “this was made just for me!” kind of games.
(Video by YouTube channel: Monkiedude22)
I’d been playing its PC counterpart, Marble Blast Gold, for some time before discovering its semi-sequel on Xbox Live, having gone so far as to unlock the developer mode and creating many of my own amateur levels. Marble Blast Ultra didn’t allow for this, but it was cleaner, sleeker, had an awesome soundtrack, and even featured multiplayer (which I of course was unstoppable in). It was good times for a good long while, but they eventually came to a close.
Thanks to some sort of rights dispute between Garage Games (the developer) and their publisher. Marble Blast Ultra was de-listed from The Xbox Live marketplace some years ago and now only exists on the Xbox 360s of fans who never deleted it. Garage Games closed up shop shortly after, and I resigned myself to the fact that there would be no more games in the Marble Blast series. That is, until I made a certain discovery last week.
(Video by YouTube channel: Marble It Up)
That’s right, Marble Blast is alive and well after all! It’s just living as Marble It Up! now. It’s got the same physics, the same overall aesthetic, and it even has those wonderfully-tacky basic assets one would expect to see from a 2006-era game. It’s even made and maintained by several members of the team behind the original games! Also, the name is something of a cheeky reference to the originals, as one of the levels was named “Marble It Up.”
Everything that was great about the Marble Blast games is present here in Marble It Up! along with many new innovations made possible by current technologies. Large and bumpy surfaces were never present in either of the original games, no were there many (if any) levels based around large curves. Smooth transitions in gravity orientation are new too. The point of all this being that there’s quite a lot of potential for creative level design here, and they’re even making use of it.
Another improvement is the presence of hidden marbles in most stages. In past games, all marbles were just available from the start, and one could just choose the design they fancied most. Marble It Up! uses its marbles to reward players for their performance. Marbles are awarded for completing sets of levels, for getting silver times, for getting gold times, and for exploring each level thoroughly enough to collect its hidden treasure. There’s a ton of marbles to gather, and many are expertly hidden, so there’s plenty of reason to keep replaying stages.
Marble It Up! has even brought back that awesome multiplayer mode and expanded it on PC. I haven’t gotten to play it yet since I’m playing on the Switch, but I’m psyched to see it nonetheless. Needless to say, I’m really looking forward to when it and some of the curated fan levels can be added to the Switch version. This’ll really be the whole package once that happens. As for negatives, I don’t really have any gripes yet. I want the multiplayer and additional levels, but they’re already working on that, so what’s to complain about?
I know this isn’t coming off as an unbiased review, and that’s probably because it really isn’t. Marble It Up! and its predecessors are exactly the kind of game I love most, so I don’t really have anything bad to say. These games are, of course, not going to be for everyone, and I’m more than a few gamers out there will find them downright boring. That said, if you ever enjoyed building and/or watching marble runs as a kid, or even just enjoy games whose challenge comes from mastering its movement mechanics, then Marble It Up! might just be the game for you too!
Did you ever play Marble Blast Ultra back in the day? Liked it? Disliked it? Have you ever been surprised by a sequel you never thought was coming?
Lede image from the Marble It Up website