Marbles date back to a time when the world was flat and men thumped each other on the head with clubs. Even though they're merely little glass balls with a pastel swirl running through the middle, marbles have been a cheap way to keep kids out of trouble for generations.
They'll undoubtedly outlive the DS and PSP. They'll only fall out of favour when man leaves the earth and moves into weightless space - until then, they're in a league of their own.
3D Marble Madness has something of this timeless quality, playing like an old-fashioned board game. The aim is to roll a marble down an obstacle course without it falling off the edge, avoiding hazards and maneuvering across precipices. You'll also find pipes that go to random locations and marble-eating blobs very nasty blighters indeed.
The control is straightforward. You use the direction keys to set you off in the direction you wish to go and the marble starts rolling. The longer you hold down the button, the faster it goes. It's a simple method, but it offers enough flexibility to move around the course with relative ease.
Having said that, slowing down can prove tricky. It feels a bit like running uncontrollably down a hill, then looking ridiculous as you haplessly attempt to stop yourself without tumbling in a tangle of arms, legs and turf.
Marble Madness' visuals stay true to the source material's roots, with fairly simple backgrounds, colours and animations. The board is presented as a flattened representation of a three-dimensional gaming area, which makes the perspective a little hard to judge at times. As for the marble, its size and position in relation to obstacles can also be a little confusing.
There's no denying though that as the levels progress, the design and originality of the courses is increasingly impressive. With elaborate arrangements and multiple routes to take, Marble Madness has a lot of tricks up its sleeve, which it only reveals as you roll deeper and deeper in.
Another plus point is the opportunity to link up with a friend via Bluetooth, so you can race around a course to the finish line. This turns the humble schoolyard sport into a completely different experience, and makes for a fun multiplayer game.
3D Marble Madness isn't perfect, mainly due to the awkward nature of the game on such a small device. But it does have much to offer the average pocket gamer. It might be frustrating at times it may even, dare we say it, cause you to lose your marbles. But if so, it's only doing its job as addictive mobile entertainment.
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