Marble Blast Ultra is the Xbox Live Arcade sequel to the PC game Marble Blast Gold. The general premise behind the Marble Blast titles is rather simple: you take control of a marble and need to find the exit. The Xbox Live Arcade version has been upgraded and features more levels and more options but did we still have a blast or do we think the developers have lost their marbles?
Marble Blast Ultra features sixty levels divided up into three difficulty levels (beginner, intermediate and advanced). Initially you'll begin by simply needing to roll your marble up a steep slope, but as you progress the levels become a lot more complex. There are several powerups which you'll need to use to complete the levels. The powerups include Super Speed, Super Jump, Ultra Blast, Mega Marble, Time Travel, Gyrocopter and Gravity Modifier. Getting a grasp on these powerups is a little tough at the beginning, but you'll need to combine several of these powerups in the advanced levels.
It's the single player campaign which really stands out in Marble Blast Ultra. The game does include multiplayer support but it feels more like an afterthought. The game supports up to eight players online and contains ten different maps. In multiplayer mode gems will spawn on a map and you'll need to race to the gems and collect as many of them as you can. You'll need to use powerups to get to the gems quicker or to see where the gems are and once all of the gems are collected another group of gems will spawn. The game also includes online leaderboards so you can compare your best times against people in your friends list or the world. Downloadable content with extra multiplayer modes was in the planning stages but this appears to have been abandoned, disappointingly enough.
Graphically Marble Blast Ultra looks okay but the levels do become repetitive. All that really changes in the levels are the colours of the floor. Visually the best looking object in Marble Blast Ultra is the marble itself, you can actually customise your marble (we suggest the rainbow one). The sound effects are average, all you ever get is one sound for the marble. The soundtrack actually only consists of one song which loops repetitively and will have you pushing the mute button on your television remote quicker than it takes to complete the first level.
The achievements in the game are well thought out, so often you'll want to repeat levels and complete them in a specific time so you can unlock all 200 points. Most of the achievements are devoted to offline play and there are hidden easter eggs in some levels, which will challenge just how skilled of a player you are.
Despite a poor multiplayer mode and an annoying soundtrack Marble Blast Ultra is a fun and enjoyable game. It's still one of the best games on the Xbox Live Arcade and is the type of game you'll come back to, just to improve your times and post them on the leaderboard.