So, real talk time – I didn’t play the first one. When Anjelus handed me a copy of this for review, I raised an eyebrow, curious as to how much of the deep, compelling narrative I would have to catch up on to make the storyline make sense for such a cultured person such as…
Okay, I can’t finish this line.
Rollin’ and Defendin’
Like I said, I didn’t play the first one, so I came into the gameplay rather fresh and the mechanics took me a bit of time to wrap my head around. The game is based on a mirrored game field – one side involves you rolling your boulder through a map, trying your best to not fall off (which you will do a lot) and not crumble due to the environment or the enemy’s defenses to smash said boulder into the enemy’s gates. After each smash, you have to wait for your boulder to get re-chiseled out of stone so you can take another whack.
On the other side, you place a variety of traps paid for with gold that you accumulate through the match to slow down or otherwise destroy their boulder. Each of these traps are designed to either take chunks of life out of your enemy’s boulder, slow them down or knock them off the map.
If you’ve played Marble Madness, you should be familiar with the frustration that comes with rolling. It is very, very easy to roll your boulder clear off the map, with each fall damaging your boulder a bit and being reset by the HAND OF GOD. My profanity count went through the roof, but I think that’s to be expected here.
Playing through the story mode unlocks different kinds of boulders, as well as new defensive buildings/units. You can unlock more spots on your bar, so you can have more variety in the animals, buildings and other things you can load up on. The different boulders can affect acceleration, top speed and, in some cases, new abilities like a double jump. Defensive structures include things like elephant troops, cannons, sticky cows, charging bulls, walls and mines (to increase your gold income, at the expense of having a spot for another defensive building). Each map has the usual game mode as well as an obstacle course.
The story mode, for me, was the highlight. The gameplay is pretty fun, but I couldn’t stop laughing during the cutscenes. The story starts with Atlas dropping a boulder to earth (on accident) and rushing down to retrieve it. From there, you go to a series of locations to try and find your way home. The historical figures are hilarious, each intro and outro to each level laden with a mixture of topical humor and context (with an almost Monty Python feel). My personal favorite, that I’m totally not spoiling for you all, is the William Wallace one. If you’re a history buff, you will laugh your ass off. If you’re not? You’ll want to have your phone or computer nearby so you can do some quick Googling later. Learning is fun!
Multiplayer comes in two flavors, same as the main game. You have a 2v2 mode (that has maps that can intersect each other!) and an obstacle course head-to-head race mode. It’s appropriately hilarious – not a friendship-breaker, but your choice words for your friends will become more creative over time.
Should you buy this game? If you liked the first one, or played a lot of Marble Madness or Super Monkey Ball and want more, this is a no-brainer. For the rest of us, I would lean towards picking it up if you want a silly jaunt through history on top of a boulder with the option to roll with your friends. It’s a straightforward experience – you got your balls, and you roll the balls, and there’s hilarity in the single player and cursing at your friends in multiplayer. If you can’t justify the full price, definitely add it to your wishlist. I think it’s totally worth your time.
A copy of the game was supplied for the PS4 to the reviewer. The reviewer supplied his own profanity and nightmares of Marble Madness.