In the good old days when I was a nipper, you’d be lucky to get an old tangerine, a piece of coal and a small wooden analogue game where you negotiate a marble around a small maze for Christmas. That’s what we did for fun in those days you see. Then, as those darn computers arrived, that wooden game of skill went digital, turning into games like Marble Madness, where you’d be left to do the same thing but in virtual form.
Now in the newest of new generations comes a game that has been inspired by the past and delivers an experience for both old and new gamers alike. But does it balance well? See what I did there? I am so sorry.
Momentum is a highly skilled, physics based platformer. In plain speak; it’s a game where you have to get your ball from one end of the maze to the other, without it falling off the edge. Spread over three worlds and up to 100 levels, the game will test your patience and your nerve as you progress through this addictive little game. Each maze itself is seen to be hovering over a city landscape high up in the clouds and you have to guide the marble delicately across the maze using the controller, tilting the maze up, down, right and left carefully without letting it fall off the edge. You have a brake button that slows the pace of ball down a little bit and this will become your best friend. Ever. There’s a button to speed up the rate of turning the maze around for your needs and you have the camera angle button so you can see the best route forward. The camera though is my nemesis in this game, I can never seem to get the right angle, or I would get it stuck behind something and not be able to turn it back to where it was before I moved it. Maybe it’s me and my clunky hands, but this feature doesn’t seem the easiest to control.
You start the game in the first few levels getting to know the mechanics. There’s a timer in play and how fast you complete the stage decides whether you get a gold, silver or bronze award. To get the Gold you have to have nerves of steel and the reactions of a Jedi knight, while never pressing down on the brake button. By the fifth level the difficulty spike increases steeply and you find yourself with twisty turny mazes that belong in the 9th level of hell itself. Momentum gives you checkpoints that save your progress throughout the maze, to ease those moments when you die for the hundredth time in a row. You also have the option to add more checkpoints yourself if needed, but if you do, your leaderboard score will go down.
Now, I feel that even though the mazes get extremely tricky, they are not impossible to complete and practice will make perfect. This really is a game where you get better the more you play. Also you might be able to complete a large maze in two minutes if you’re some kind of weird genius, whilst the rest of us who are left struggling might go to four or five minutes. Which isn’t a long time to spend on a skill game before it gets very frustrating and boring. I found myself doing a couple of levels in a session, taking a break for a few hours, before a part of me starting nagging at my brain saying “come on we can do this” and I would go back for another round. It is very addictive and you’ll find yourself wanting to get to the other side of that maze badly. Why? There’s not a story here, no incentives or secret bonus levels. You’re just a simple human moving a ball across a maze and that’s where its brilliance lies.
Graphically there isn’t much to talk about really; it’s not a game to win you over with high res, cutting edge pixel distribution. I will say it again – it’s a ball and a maze. It looks fine. The maze and the ball shine and are drawn well enough. There’s a city backdrop with a nice twilight skyline and fading sun that looks pretty enough too, whilst sound wise there is a sort of generic easy listening techno chill out track that is calming. This works well against the tense gameplay and puts you in a zen like trance which helps you tackle the hard dexterity test ahead.
The amount of levels on offer in Momentum gives you plenty for your buck. There are 100 levels to complete and it will take you a while to get through them all. The achievements on offer are not easy to get though, so you can go back through the levels later and try to get those elusive gold awards…the ones which you’ll only grab should you be some weird alien type.
The price has yet to be decided for the UK version, but if it translates fairly from the North American price, we’re looking at something around the £7-8 area, which I think is great value for money. I enjoyed my time with Momentum and as I haven’t got anywhere near the end yet, will continue to try a level a day.
It’s simple, old fashioned and a bit tricky. Some would say just like me. Give it a try.