Over 30 years ago, Marble Madness
was released. Players had to manouevre a marble through a course that was plagued with obstacles and pitfalls. Despite being relatively short at just six levels, the game garnered critical acclaim and provided inspiration for many others. Many similar titles have been released and younger gamers are more likely to be familiar with games like the Super Monkey Ball
series. Projectile Entertainment is the latest developer to put their own spin on the genre with their title, Momentum
, but will they create a legacy of their own?Momentum
tasks players with moving a ball from start to finish over linear courses set against an almost zen-like background. Instead of controlling the ball directly, players must rotate the courses in all directions to get the ball to its target destination. While players can make the ball jump small distances and can apply brakes for tight corners or controlled drops, the ball is otherwise solely at the mercy of gravity. Players are introduced to the gameplay mechanics through a handful of gentle tutorial levels. Don't let these levels fool you. In the blurb for the title, the developer promises "challenging gameplay" and they weren't joking.
Once past the tutorial levels, the game's difficulty takes such a sudden upturn that it feels like a gentle stroll through the park that just ended at a vertical rock face. Trying to rotate a ball around the inside of a circular track is easy. Trying to roll it around the outside of that same track without falling to your doom is another matter entirely and this is one of the first things that you will need to learn. As the game progresses through its 90 levels, those more persistent players will find themselves avoiding lasers, navigating across moving platforms and toggling buttons to get to their intended destination. The difficulty spikes without rhyme or reason to the point where even some of the earlier levels will be too much of a challenge for the casual puzzle player. Only the most patient and tenacious need apply.
Lasers... check! Moving platforms... check! Complete lack of safety barriers... check!
As if pure survival isn't difficult enough, an ever-present timer ticks away as you travel through the courses and you are awarded medals based on your performance. If you want the gold medals then you'll need to be quick and, like Marble Madness
, you'll likely need to find shortcuts. The good news is that you don't have to finish a course if you're having a lot of trouble -- all that you have to do is to try it. Once you have attempted a course, the following level will open up regardless of whether you make it to the finish marker. Unfortunately, you won't be able to cheat your way through the game like this as you can only skip one level at a time; you're unable to skip multiple consecutive levels. Also, if you want all of the game's achievements then you'll need to complete all of the levels anyway.
The longer, more difficult tracks have checkpoints that are marked with a bright green glow to which the ball will teleport if it falls off the track. Every time that you fall off the track, two seconds are added to your completion time but it is a far better option than having to start at the beginning of the track again. Some tracks even give the player the chance to add their own checkpoints in convenient places if there are particular parts with which they're struggling. You can only add a finite number of checkpoints, so this isn't a mechanic that can be spammed over and over. You'll still need a fair amount of skill and perhaps a bit of luck to get to the end with a decent time.
Aside from the orange end marker, that green glow is one of the game's more welcome sights
The tracks and timer aren't the only thing to challenge you throughout the game; the game's camera can be just as big an obstacle to overcome. Whereas players rotate the courses with
, they can freely rotate the camera with
. Although the game neglects to tell you this, the camera can also be zoomed in and out with the shoulder buttons. The default proximity of the camera is great for dealing with immediate obstacles but gives players very little warning of oncoming obstacles. However, if you zoom out too much then it becomes almost impossible to navigate obstacles accurately. Get the camera in the wrong place and the ball could be obscured by another part of the track at the worst possible moment. Unfortunately, valuable seconds can be lost by trying to move the camera to another angle as you progress through the course. The game is difficult enough without having to battle the camera, too. Getting the camera into the perfect spot becomes a frustrating art form and is the difference between success and numerous failures.
At US$9.99, it isn't one of the cheapest puzzle titles around but it does offer many hours of gameplay. Admittedly, the game will push most people's patience to the limit so that you're only ever likely to play the game in short bursts, but replayability is added in the form of those elusive gold medals. There are also different balls that can be unlocked upon completion of certain in-game tasks, each of which conveniently corresponds to an achievement. All of these balls are purely cosmetic skins that add no advantages or disadvantages to playing the game, despite their different shapes.
All of those platforms move. Good luck!
Finally we get to the game's achievements. Not only will players have to complete all of the game's levels, you'll also need to achieve 40 bronze medals, 30 silver medals and 21 gold medals in the process. The medals are cumulative, so achieving a gold medal on one level will also award a silver and bronze medal to your tally. You will also have to cumulatively beat the gold medal times by a total of 3 minutes. Luckily, only your gold medal levels count towards this cumulative total so there's no need to panic if you've exceeded a bronze level time by several minutes on some levels. The really challenging achievements lie in completing a streak of 15 levels without dying after completing the tutorial. There are also three specific levels that must be completed without using brakes. This is not an easy completion and will definitely not be a quick completion, even if you are a very skilled player.
takes the premise of Marble Madness
and adds its own touch. With the ball at the mercy of gravity, players must rotate the track to get the ball to the finishing line. While this may sound simple, the game's difficulty ramps up sharply after the tutorial levels are over and failure is inevitable. When you add the complications and unnecessary frustration presented by a free moving camera, casual puzzle players would probably be best giving this one a miss. Only the most patient players will succeed here and a completion will not be easy, but those that persist will be awarded with many hours of gameplay.
- 90 levels bring many hours of gameplay
- Medal times add replayability
- Frustrating camera
- Sharp increase in difficulty
The reviewer spent three hours playing and replaying the game's levels to try and achieve better times and more achievements. She came up with some extremely inventive names for the game's camera while unlocking just 9 of the game's 29 achievements, but this was only because Xbox Live issues prevented others from unlocking. A copy of this game was provided by the developer for the purpose of this review.