Genre: Marble Platformer
Developer: Atomic Elbow
Publisher: Sierra Online / Sony Computer Entertainment America
Release Date: 10/17/2009
Switchball is a ball rolling game, a fist-person-marble if you will, that called to mind the out-of-control feeling of Marble Madness. This is a good thing.
They kept it simple in this release. There is free play without a time limit, timed play with one, and multiplayer which I was unsuccessful in my attempts to get a game.
There is no story per-say to speak of. You’re a ball. You can transform into other balls more suited to the obstacles ahead of you in order to get to the end of the level. Afterwards, you can go to the next level. There isn’t any story about how the levels killed your parents and you must roll your way to vengeance.
Trophies are awarded based on time to complete a level. You can get medals in these races against yourself in either time mode.
A bit of a surprise was multiplayer. In theory, the game can be played in co-op and time competitive. I was never able to get a game going based on the way this was put together. Basically, you have to wait in a lobby for someone to appear. I waited for half an hour once. No one ever did, nor were any multiplayer games available.
It would have been a better idea to allow others to join an already started game for multiplayer, but this wasn’t how it was released.
Story Rating: Below Average
The first impression on me was the backgrounding in this title. I really felt as if I was playing from a great height and that my poor ball would plummet into an abyss if I screwed things up.
The surface lighting effects of the powerballs when their abilities are active is also a nice touch as it shines on all available surfaces as you roll along.
Graphics Rating: Good
The electronic mood music never got old for me. I turned off other music in order to get immersed into it as I played. The themes are well looped and flow well.
Sound Rating: Good
Controls are fairly accommodating for this title. If you’re a fan of Sixaxis, you can use that or you can go with the more conventional twiddley thumstick action. Camera options are flexible in style; chase camera, manual control, and game-decides-best-view. Feeling is mostly intuitive and, once you get a hold on the camera controls.
The player, or ball, has the ability to transform into various forms when it enters various transmuters located in locations in the puzzles where they are required to proceed. The forms present in the game include:
Gameplay starts off basic and the save gateways get further apart and challenges get more difficult in a good progression.
Unlike that past glory, there are no enemies to contend with and only the challenge of making it through the obstacles to challenge you as there are an infinite amount of lives for you to consume until you complete the level.
Control and Gameplay Rating: Enjoyable
Playing through each level sequence and unlocking more advanced levels is the goal of the first passthrough. Afterwards, replayability in receiving completion speed medals and theoretical multiplayer games leaves something to be accomplished.
If you can get multi-player happening, as I was unable to, there will be more to do.
Replayability Rating: Below Average
There should be something here in Switchball for every level of play; the casual gaming experience for the first couple of worlds to the hardcore OCD types in the last world that does not forgive mistakes. The levels are always able to be completed given the appropriate amount of patience and perseverance.
Balance Rating: Decent
Marble rolling games are not a very original concept, but this one combines many of the things that made the old ones good, adds an immersive HD experience, and problem solving of a puzzle game. It works out to be an enjoyable combination, but nothing groundbreaking.
The availability of multiple paths to an objective is a good one, but it didn’t get a whole lot of use.
Originality Rating: Decent
You need to have a love of ball rolling around games for this to hook you.
If, like me, you enjoy problem solving and difficult games, you’ll put a few hours into this title at a minimum.
Addictiveness Rating: Below Average
Playing with your balls doesn’t have the same appeal as it used to. Sixaxis enthusiasm never really took off as Lair never became a classic game.
This is a game that you would enjoy if you looked for it, but there isn’t much to call attention to this game.
A good multiplayer experience would have been fantastic in the spirit of old Marble Madness, but isn’t realized in this title.
Appeal Factor: Below Average
There hasn’t been a game like this released in recent memory. It’s good to see that there’s a marble game out even though I hoped that some areas of it were a bit more developed, such as the multiplayer gameplay. A worthy and timely release that is well worth the $10 price point even with its flaws.
Miscellaneous Rating: Enjoyable
Story: Below Average
Sound: Very Good
Control and Gameplay: Enjoyable
Replayability: Below Average
Addictiveness: Below Average
Appeal Factor: Below Average
FINAL SCORE: Decent Game
Short Attention Span Summary
A puzzle style game that harkens back feelings of Marble Madness gameplay elements. Multiplayer is available but difficult to find a game. Playing through levels in this game feels much like if you were actively playing aspects of a Goldberg machine.
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