A super simple game that anyone can play, Marblelous Animal tasks the player with rolling an animal shaped marble into a hole using the Switch’s gyro controls. Even though the overall concept and musical soundtrack is easy going, there are a few basic housekeeping flaws that push the overall experience into the frustration column.
The tilt control is a bit too sensitive and takes time to grasp which becomes a problem on the later, more challenging stages. Although the game starts easy enough, with only a few hazards in the way, later stages expose the player to spike traps and plunger jumps, both of which can be tricky to navigate thanks to the touchy controls and spotty hit detection. In fact, there were times when my marble just fell through the stage for no reason. Boost pads are often placed in tricky places which makes the level design unfair in certain situations.
Sensitive controls aside, the most annoying aspect is the lack of instant restarts. Before the player can actually play the level, the player must wait for the score screen to load, then fade, before the player is allowed to play the game. After restarting a tricky level for the ninth time, yeah, I get it, I need to earn three stars – you don’t have to tell me anymore! Worse yet, this pop-up screen just fades away randomly; the player cannot press the “A” button, for example, to advance to the next screen. This one thing, despite sounding so stupid and simple, was enough to make me rage quit several times. Waiting for this dumb screen to fade, I would be tilting the Switch to the side but would cause the ball to instantly fly off the stage. Instead, the player needs to level the controller, wait for the tedious score screen to fade, then start tilting the screen – unintuitive.
The other major problem with this marble rolling sim is the stationary camera’s position. Since the camera is stationed almost from a flat 2D point of view, the player is often forced to guide the marble blindly. If the hole is located in the back to the stage, the player needs to tilt the stage backward, or bottoms up in this case, so the player can only see the bottom of the stage. This causes an unnecessary number of unfair game overs as it becomes impossible to judge where the ball is going. The stages that have spikes, the player will need to restart if three hits are taken. What is weird, the player can still move the marble for another second or two after taking too much damage and I was able to finish a stage even though I was “dead.” It is also difficult to earn the perfect three star ranking on each stage due to the required completion time. Collecting each coin and finishing with the number of balls in the hole (some stages feature multi-ball), but doing all this in the short amount of professional speed running time is nearly impossible, especially with the troubled controls and camera issues. Also, the player needs to earn these precious stars to unlock the last half of the game.
Collected coins and red gems can be spent to unlock new animal marbles but there is no functional difference between them. It might have been cool if a monkey ball, for example, jumped higher, a rhino ball was more powerful, or a frog ball was stickier. Instead, the player unlocks a couple of poorly written summaries of each animal and doesn’t change anything other than cosmetic difference.
Marblelous Animals is such a simple and fun concept, it is just a shame the basics fall apart and cause the entire experience to suffer. It might be cute and only cost a few bucks, but the unfair tedium will cause players to lose their marbles in frustration.
Not As Good As: Kirby Tilt’n Tumble (GBC)
Also Try: Super Monkey Ball Banana Blitz HD
Wait For It: a new Marble Madness