Where To Get It: Steam
Way back, in the mists of time, I used to play a wee game called Marble Madness. Good lord, it was frustrating, and was my first experience with a trackball. Many twenty-pences were lost, and, honestly, I never finished it. But hot dang if I had a love-hate relationship with that marble. Loved the idea, hated the levels.
The years have been somewhat kind to marble based racing games, thankfully, and, while Marble Skies is somewhat minimalistic, it’s also got its charm. It’s also got… Some demoralising best times. We’ll come back to those.
Okay, let’s back up. Effectively, Marble Skies involves, as most marble games do, controlling an unruly, heavy marble along an obstacle course (sometimes needing to collect gems, sometimes merely needing to get to the exit) as quickly as possible, without dying. Want to get in among the speedrunners? Well, prepare to get acquainted with this marble’s physics, and jump segments of the course. Lots of them. Hell, at first, I doubted the current leaderboard times, but then I managed to get close enough to see how it could be done on a couple of levels. (I still doubt some of them, though, to be honest. But much fewer than I did…)
Aesthetically, like I said, the game is minimalist. It uses Unreal’s glows and gloss fairly well, but what it treasures more over looking pretty is clarity. Simple menus, clear differentiation of features.. The worst I could say, aesthetically, is that the music is rare, and that some of the main features are not really very clear (like jumps or gravity switches.) The sound of the rolling ball is nice, as well, and customisation is alright, all using points earned via play.
Mainly, the biggest turnoff for folks will probably be an actual feature, in that glass balls are actually quite heavy, and turn, generally speaking, like a heavy thing that rolls easily. They also bounce quite a bit, and so, quite a few times in trying to get a quicker time, all I’ve done is bounce into oblivion, and hit the restart button with a gusty sigh (as dying during a run will not reset your time, presumably for speedrunners who want to be faithful with their times to complete) The level design does ramp up moderately quickly (By the time gravity switches got introduced, near the end of the beginner levels, I was sweating), so I honestly wouldn’t say this was a beginner’s marble rolling game, but the level layouts are interesting and sometimes pretty cool.
Finally, there’s a mini golf mode, and, honestly, this is the weakest feature. It’s an alright mini golf game, if you like golfing with marbles, but, not gonna lie, marbles or other glass balls would not be my first choice of ball, and the control scheme for it is fiddly (hold left, then mouse up and down for power, mouse left and right for direction. Release to fire.)
Overall, then, Marble Skies is mostly a “Does what it says on the tin” release. For fans of marble puzzle racers, it’s an enjoyable one, but it’s not really going to bring anyone who’s on the fence into liking this style of game.
The Mad Welshman was, alas, too young for marbles in the playground to be a serious thing. I mean, Pogs, sure. But not marbles.