PC Reviews

Marble Skies Review: More Marbles, More Madness

Marble Skies is a breakout game from developer Birdwall Games, released for PC. The game is a simple platformer where you direct your marble to the end of the stage, marked by a large glowing beacon. Make no mistake though; Marble Skies is challenging. The game’s physics and power-ups allow for a wide variety of stage designs, each requiring both skill and familiarity with how the game handles in order to reach the end.

From speed stages where players are required to do loops and build up speeds on half-pipes, to mechanically intensive stages where power-ups are used to pinball yourself off accurately placed platforms, the potential of the game’s stage design is well-represented throughout all difficulty levels. With such a challenging game, it’s easy to notice some stages have too few checkpoints while others seem to have an overabundance.

For convenience, there’s a quick reset button for when you’re about to die or if you’re aiming for the leaderboards for when you’ve gone over the time you’re aiming for. However, this quick reset will take you back to the start of the stage, not your last checkpoint. For stages where the player finds themselves dying to the same curve or platform, you have to resist the urge to hit that reset button, where instead you’re forced to wait at least three seconds to finally die after falling off and return to your checkpoint. Having to sit through your marble’s death instead of being able to reset back to your checkpoint can be frustrating when you’re stuck on a difficult part of a stage.

Throughout the game, the player collects gems for completing stages that can be used for profile avatars on the leaderboards, as well as on skins for your marble if the player gets tired of the default granite pattern. None of these gems are paid for with microtransactions; the only way to acquire them is to simply play the game. The marbles — along with most of the stages — are beautiful to look at with smooth and polished textures. Notable exceptions to this, however, are the springs and power-ups that are still fuzzy and solid colored.

It’s worth mentioning that some of the game’s leaderboards have been polluted with false or impossible record times. According to Birdwall Games, “multiple exploits have been patched that allowed cheaters to upload fake times to the leaderboards & a few minor features.” Because of the issue, work is being done to address this.

The entirety of the game takes place over a cloudy sunset sky with platforms floating in the void. The calm atmosphere along with background music from chillwave artist Stevia Sphere creates a distinct mood for Marble Skies The detail of the background can even be distracting in some cases. The sun can get in the player’s eyes when trying to maneuver their marble, but this is only noticeable on stages that require the player to look upward. Over time the soundtrack becomes familiar but not grating, with songs smoothly transitioning and matching the sunset atmosphere of each stage. With the recent popularity of lo-fi, vaporwave, chillwave and future funk, it’s not surprising for Marble Skies to adopt these features in their game.

As a small indie game, the fiercest advocate to convince potential players has been the developer; Reddit user Crystal3lf. A developer who has passionately advocated for themselves and their game across Reddit and has even taken the time to reflect on their development experiences with the community at large. It’s clear Birdwall Games has a passion for what they do and it’s reflected in their first game.

Marble Skies is a simple and rewarding game for players looking for a platforming challenge. After finishing the core stages, players looking for more intensity can practice to place on the leaderboards, while players looking for more casual fun can check out the game’s growing collection of community made stages. With both of these options, the game manages to stay relevant even after you’ve cleared the game’s “Advanced Stages.”

Marble Skies is available now on Steam.

Update 8/5/2018: A developer from Birdwall Games reached out to inform Indie Ranger that illegitimate record times have been scrubbed from the leaderboards.

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