I’ve been gaming for around forty-five years. I remember the earliest days of the scene, I remember my childhood gaming sessions and I remember the raucous nature of the uni days, passing controllers, downing drinks. And from there, that love of gaming has been passed down to my kids, chucking a pad into their hands at the earliest opportunity.
I’ve played the good and the great, the bad and the ugly. But in all that time, I’ve only ever held a few gaming experiences close to heart. Chuckie Egg was one. Turrican II another. Abe’s Oddysee a particular favourite; a game which helped spawn an Xbox love in.
And with that move to the Xbox scene came another. Marble Blast Ultra.
Replicating the classic
An Xbox Live Arcade classic that absolutely dominated the Xbox 360 landscape, Marble Blast Ultra is not just a game that holds a place dear to my heart. It’s seemingly a title that many look back on with fond memories. A game that is hugely missed.
For those unaware – whether because they were too young to embrace the ball rolling of the time, or because other systems locked them out – Marble Blast Ultra tasked players with rolling a giant marble across a host of levels and landscapes. The quicker, the better.
Power ups were present to help aid finish times, whilst traps and obstacles attempted to slow things down. But it was a game that was equally capable of delivering serene relaxation.
Personally, Marble Blast Ultra was always going to be a big deal. I’ve got something of a penchant for ball rolling games, something that I can probably trace back to some Marble Madness days. Serious PlayStation 1 Kula World love helped.
And so here we are today with the spiritual successor to Marble Blast Ultra. From the same creative minds as those behind the classic – the Marble It Up team – it’s an absolute joy to have Marble It Up! Ultra on Xbox. And aside from a few little hiccups, this is the best marble rolling game you can play on Xbox today. Period.
Marble It Up! Ultra on Xbox starts off easy
Your goal in Marble It Up! Ultra is to make your way across a variety of ever-increasingly tricky stages. The faster you do it, the better. Or at least, the higher the chances of you scraping a leaderboard placement and being able to get calling in the bragging rights.
It all starts off nice and easy too, with the first few levels showing players the ropes, ensuring they become one with the flow of the marble, moving this way and that, pushing the camera to new angles. Jumps come into play, as you scrabble for faster times by skipping gaps, moving from platform to platform. Hunting down the quickest route to that end goal is extremely addictive.
But like everything, Marble It Up! Ultra fast removes those training wheels and starts delivering a sterner test. Moving platforms arrive, ice makes your pathway all the slippier, gaps become larger and more frequent, gems need grabbing in order to unlock the exits. The levels become full of hazards in fact, leaving you to attempt to utilise the in-world physics and get that marble of yours to safety. Bounce pads and see-saws build the difficulty even more, as do blockers that will ping you away from your target. And then there’s the change in gravity, perspective and more as your melon begins to get twisted. But it’s the angles and curves of each level in Marble It Up! Ultra that really provide the test. Honing your skills across these, delicately focusing on prime lines will be your only hope of success.
Power ups help, of course they do. But they can also hinder. It takes some getting used to as you happen across speed pickups, pushing your marble across a stage faster than light. Mega-jumps also need to be well timed, as does the delicate feather which slows any fall. In fact, the most useful should be seen as those that slow time, allowing you to have a better chance of grabbing the bronze, silver and gold medals on offer. Make the most of all the tools at your disposal and you may even see a diamond medal get hung around your neck.
Leaderboards and collectibles await
It’s those times that are the biggest draw of Marble It Up! Ultra. Just knowing that you can shave a millisecond or two off a level completion will have you going back to try and try again. And if you’ve got mates kicking around on the leaderboards of each stage, hunting down their times could be seen as the most addictive thing in the world. It’s nice then that race replays will occasionally allow you the chance to follow ghosts of other marbles, discovering shortcuts and the like. For us, it’s been more of a wake-up call – put in our place by others across the globe with marbling skills from the gods.
With collectibles to hunt down, daily challenges in place to give reason to fire Marble It Up! Ultra on a regular basis, there’s some serious addictiveness kicking around in this marble roller. When you consider that stages can be over in a matter of seconds, or run into the tens of minutes as later levels open, it’s a game that is ripe for double and triple dipping. In fact, we can see ourselves coming back to this one, attempting to discover a faster route or time for months to come.
Marble It Up! Ultra isn’t short of content either. Six chapters play host to the main events, with some seventy levels in place here. Do well on these – ie, get some gold medals attached to your name – and a further four Bonus worlds come into play. These are even more devious than the standard sets, mixing up everything you would have learnt through the opening throes. You’ll not be left wanting by the quantity – or quality – of the stages on offer here – some of the designs are absolutely brilliant.
There’s some multiplayer too, but for us this is the only real side of Marble It Up! Ultra where things drop a bit. Crossplay support is in house, as you get the opportunity to jump into matches via a Quick Play system, through Private Games, or by making the most of Room Codes. It all works fine too, with Gem Hunts, Zombie matches, a bit of King of the Hill in the form of Sumo and Rocket League vibing Soccer options all present.
There’s multiplayer in Marble It Up! Ultra on Xbox
Various maps play host to these multiplayer aspects, and finding players present is an easy task. And the multiplayer does do things a tad differently, infusing Ultra Blasts and Mega Marbles into the equation. But it’s the single player, puzzling levels that bring the real appeal, and we’ve struggled to find too much enthusiasm to continue dipping into the online scene. Yes, as a game that is chucked on for an evening’s worth of party action, we’d not hesitate to have Marble It Up! Ultra installed, but we’d prefer to save it just for those odd occasions.
The rest of the time, we’ll be found hammering away at those leaderboards, attempting to discover new routes across the single player – and possibly Daily Challenge – stages.
However you play Marble It Up! Ultra though, you can be sure this will be a game that is happy to hammer your senses. It’s always bright and colourful, with about as much colour in a game as you could wish for. A variety of Marbles, Trails and Toppers are unlockable, allowing you to add some personalisation should you so wish. And it all controls nicely too, with delicate movements and faster paced action moments combining well. We can forgive the very slight moments of lag that have popped up on the rarest of occasions.
And we’ve been extremely taken by the soundtracks that accompany the puzzling adventures of Marble It Up! Ultra. There’s a real electronic rock, ‘Pendulum’, feel to the beats and bass that play out across stages; a quiet time you will not have here.
The best marble roller on Xbox
Whilst it may have been the best part of two decades since Marble Blast Ultra dominated the Xbox Live Arcade scene, Marble It Up! Ultra arrives on Xbox determined to provide a new batch of players with the same marble based exhilaration. And it works brilliantly, pushing out a supremely addictive single player campaign that is absolutely chock full of content.
For us, the multiplayer brings little to the table, and we’d have preferred more focus on the solo content instead, but Marble It Up! Ultra is a game that will have you staying up late at night, chasing leaderboard times and going all out for bragging rights.
And in our eyes, that’s what a marble game is all about.