Spectraball is an indie marble platforming game developed by Shorebound Studios, and released in Oct 2008.
I like games like this. I am a huge fan of indie puzzle games like this. Armadillo Run, Switchball, Pontifex/Bridge Construction Set, Marble Blast, Nimbus, to name a few of my favs. This game could be compared directly to Switchball and Marble Blast, as a sort of new generation of Marble Madness.
Spectraball combines elements of platforming, puzzle solving, addictive gameplay and stunning visuals to deliver an experience that sets a new standard for its genre. The object of the game is simple: make it through each stage as quickly as possible. However, as you progress you will find that each stage presents its own unique obstacles and challenges that you will have to overcome.
– Shorebound Studios –
The physics are good. Realistic in a lot of ways, but lacking in ease of use. The controls and movement feel cumbersome and heavy, as if you were rolling through milk instead of air. There is a good way to pull off heavy, and Switchball did it very effectively.. the game had real weight, but it only added to the feel of the game. In this game, it’s sort of a speed based game, similar to Marble Blast, but the weight of the ball throws that off somehow, and carries it over to the difficult-to-move-around side of things, which strips off the fun.
The gameplay elements to making a great game are there. There are jump pads, buttons, speed boosts, collectibles (glorbs), and objects to move and push around. Unfortunately is feels like a lot of these gameplay elements are implemented in a hurried way. Let me rattle off a few examples for you.
- The buttons you press in the game are only a small step up onto the little 3d model, but it’s so cumbersome to get up onto them sometimes, that you’re sitting there rolling around it, nudging into it for like 20 seconds.. why not make it concave, so you roll into it with ease?
- There is a speed boost on one of the very beginning levels that you have to jump up into, and it will toss you through a wall into the next portion of the level.. being that this is a beginning level, you would think it would be fairly simple. It took me a good 20+ tries to get it!
- Time limits. Why? The times are all uploaded to a central server and published in-game for everyone to see. The times themselves would self-police and motivate people to be quick, completely eliminating the need for time limits at all. The time limits only serve as a way to make you play the game more than once. If you are an achievement hunter, you will have to play the game all the way through no less than three times. (Once for collecting Glorbs, once for speed on hard difficulty, and once or more for “The Impossible” achievement.) It takes away from the freedom of the game, and kind of ruins it.
- Glorbs (the collectible items). They are scattered around in ridiculous places, making you completely change route or stop the flow of the game to collect them.. quite often you have to avoid the end portal completely, dance around it and collect three or four of them right by it, then go into the portal.. this removes the “blammo” fast finish that makes the ending of the levels fun. In Marble Blast, you would often get great speed built up, and fly through the finish line, giving you a huge sense of a real finish line that is quite awesome.
- There is lava scattered around some of the beginning levels but it doesn’t hurt you. If you fall “off” the map into the lava, you can roll around down there with no penalty other than not being able to get back up to the play field. You then have to commit suicide to respawn back at your last checkpoint. Just make the lava hurt!
I decided to try out the gamepad to see if it would help with the controls. I went into the controls interface, and chose to use the gamepad. I then tried to map my dpad to up/down/left/right, and couldn’t. I decided it must want me to “save” the fact I want to use a controller, then go back into that screen and add my button mappings.. when I chose gamepad then clicked “back” nothing was mapped. The game completely removed *any* way to move about the menus, and now the game is completely useless unless I can find some way to remap them through an .ini file or something. I’m not sure at this point that I should even bother.
"THE GAME DISAPPOINTS WHERE IT SHOULD HAVE SHONE THE BRIGHTEST."
It’s a shame really. I had a good feeling about the game at the start, and it turned out to be a title that feels like it was never actually play tested. There are lots of glaring problems and stupid ideas that were left in the game for no reason. This game disappoints where it should have shone the brightest.
Developer: Shorebound Studios
Publisher: Shorebound Studios
Released: October 28th, 2008
Platform: Windows, Mac
MSRP: $4.99 USD
Marble blast gold is shiny.
– Good visuals
– Good sound
– Poor gameplay and controls
– Needs some additionan play-testing and patches before it will be fun
– Time limits on the levels don’t make sense. Ranked, and timed is more than enough to encourage speed