Marble games are fun, and I don’t really know why there aren’t more of them. Thankfully, now there’s not just one, but two such titles on the Switch. Although, I guess Mindball Play doesn’t technically count as being a fully-fledged marble game, because it’s quite the trip.
Mindball Play does have you taking control of various dense metallic balls across a variety of really well-designed tracks. Rather than the more puzzle-oriented gameplay that most of these types of games feature, Mindball Play is an arcade racer, featuring power-ups and a healthy amount of stage hazards—all of which will steamroll you.
I was surprised to find that Mindball Play‘s campaign is actually pretty difficult. As you navigate through the various courses, you’ll find yourself rolling over pathways with sharp turns that have no guardrails, vaulting over huge gaps, and boosting through laser-filled corridors. The power-up system adds to the zaniness and overall frustration, as it does make the outcome of every race more-or-less quite random. While a level of skill will help you to progress, there’s often just so much going on that you’ll likely find yourself restarting rather often, as I did.
This ain’t no Sunday St’roll’
There are three chapters within the campaign, each more difficult than the previous. In total, there are 39 levels (though some are reused). They also revolve around a specific theme. The first has you constantly going up against a power-up-hungry ‘antagonist’ (not sure how a ball can have a personality, but moving on), while the second is based all around constant changes in the size of your ball. The last one amplifies the already heavy sci-fi tones to an even greater degree with you going up against AI opponents meant to represent aliens. As I said before, there’s quite a lot of randomness going on here, but while it can be frustrating due to the difficulty, it’s quite a lot of fun.
The sense of speed the game offers is quite nice, though it is still a very different experience from a traditional racing game. As I mentioned before, the track design is nice and plays to the strengths of ball movement. For instance, one level has you knocking down energy canisters like a giant bowling ball. The pathways are constantly curving and dipping, and there are many moments where you’ll be making tight turns and quick shifts from left to right that could only be done with a ball. The overall goal is to try and maintain control as much as possible, which also involves making use of the well-tuned physics system. While there were a lot of moments where I felt Mindball Play was just throwing low blows at me, I still can’t ignore that it is a joy to play whenever the adrenaline starts pumping.
As this is an Unreal Engine 4-powered title, the visual presentation does match up with the quality of the gameplay. All of the textures and lighting are of high-quality, straight down to the realistic reflections and light glare. Anti-aliasing is also enabled, which is a bit of a rarity on Switch. That said, this visual fidelity does come at a cost to the framerate. While the game targets 30FPS, there are some occasional moments where it hitches for a few seconds. Thankfully, it didn’t happen too often to be annoying. Even so, it would’ve been nice if the devs strived for 60 FPS instead; having the option of a performance and quality mode also would’ve been nice. Rocket League does it, and that’s an Unreal game too.
If you do happen to be a fan of marble games, or even regular racers, you’re bound to find joy in Mindball Play. While it is on the difficult side, its unique gameplay style definitely helps it to stand out from the pack.
A review code was provided by the publisher.