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First a personal admission, I’ve never been a big fan of puzzle games (No, not Tomb Raider). Traditional games like Bejeweled and, yes I’m sorry, Tetris have never really grabbed my attention for more than five minutes; but when it comes to games like Mercury (PSP) I did become interested. There’s something about being a round object and rolling around a linear puzzle course which appeals to me, whether that be the implementation of the playable object and how it interacts with its puzzles, or the variety of puzzles that can be attempted in each level. So when I heard Switchball was released on PSN I was very curious.
Switchball is a puzzle game where you as a marble, being weary of your momentum, have to move through a set out course and come across mini obstacles/puzzles to reach the end. I call some of them obstacles, as they really aren’t puzzles but more of a logic obstruction which you have to figure out as quickly as possible, depending on what mode you play.
There is a single-player and multiplayer portion to the game. Both follow the same formula, it’s just the multiplayer part allows you to race a Live opponent or work cooperatively to complete a level.
The single-player has two modes or settings to choose from. These are free play and timed play, which are quite self explanatory, but the timed play adds a timer of which you must beat to obtain a medal (bronze, silver then gold) and the free play mode removes the timer allowing you to attempt the puzzles without feeling pressured.
The game itself starts off very simple, and then gradually gets more complex and slightly longer throughout the game. There are five worlds, each adding a different setting and each becoming harder than the other. The game always introduces new puzzles so it never gets old, at least not until you complete it. The game isn’t that hard, even though it gradually gets more complex, you rarely have to stop and think “How am I going to go about this” until the last two worlds. But this game is really designed for you to play against the timer. and work for those medals, or compete on the included leader board.
The only real problem with the gameplay is the marble momentum and gravity; although realistic, it could have been better. I really couldn’t ‘feel’ that I was a marble in the game because it all felt very light due to controller. This is forgivable though, as there are noticeable momentum differences between the different controllable objects.
The visuals in this game are outstanding for an arcade game, arguably the best out there at the moment. The textures are very detailed and smooth, everything is very colourfull, the marble you control is perfectly round and convincing enough to look like a marble.
The levels don’t look particularly interesting within the design elements, but I don’t think this was a high priority within development, and I doubt you’ll be aware of the lack of surroundings when rushing against the timer.
Although visually the game looks good, I think there were sacrifices made,as there are noticeable frequent screen tearing issues. These are more noticeable on a HD screen as well; this won’t affect the game unless you’re quite picky.
An interesting, catchy ambient theme is used thoughout this game. It’s nothing special, but it’s the kind of game that would play fine without a soundtrack, but what’s included suites the game perfectly. The sound effects are sufficient too, all expected but nothing which sticks out as memorable.
The soundtrack to this game is noticeably repeated, it’s not an annoyance, as sometimes there isn’t any music at all to break things up a little. Overall there’s nothing to complain about.
Longevity, as a whole, is very good in this game. There are many levels as the worlds split into six levels each from every one of five worlds, which translates to about thirty levels. Although this may sound huge, the levels in comparison are fairly short, they may get slightly longer as you progress but this is mainly due to the puzzles being more complex.
There isn’t much to complain about, however as everything is made up in the variety of modes. As mentioned before, there is a multiplayer mode too, which is not as long as the single player mode, but there is more than enough for an arcade game. There is a leaderboard, which will keep the competitive players busy, and achievements for the hungry gamerscore hunters. The achievements themselves aren’t as easy as most of the arcade games, but I’ll leave you to work out if this is a good feature or not.
If you are into a lot of arcade puzzle games then this is a must have. It’s particularly enjoyable for all games players of all ages, there’s a lot to do and there is a good amount of challenging achievements to work for. So if you’re missing a game like Mercury on the Xbox then this is one to get.