The Marbians Review—To a Flying Saucer, Can You Take Them There?
Aside from zombies, aliens are probably the most exhausted video game antagonist, protagonist and/or subject matter. There is nothing wrong with this, but if you really think about it, there is a breaking point for every gamer who always encounters the same things over and over again.
The Marbians is an alien-themed physics puzzler. Physics puzzlers in browser games format get released in bulk every day. I have played lots and lots of these physics puzzler-type games, enough so that I believe I am armed with the right to judge accordingly. The Marbians, though polished and streamlined, is nothing really special.
Yes, the graphics are smooth, good-looking and vibrant. However, The Marbians feels like a basic version of what a physics puzzler should be. Gameplay goes like this: you “shoot” your alien friends back to their UFOs. At first, you only have one try to do it, but in the later stages, you are given lots of tries as the level designs get complex. More aliens are introduced, more obstacles, moving ledges, rotating sticks and many more. Another thing, you can optionally collect the blue orbs to truly complete a level, the kind of gimmick seen in each and every physics puzzler on Kongregate, Newgrounds, etc. Honestly, I don’t appreciate collecting the optional star, orb, fruit, etc., since it tickles my obsessive-compulsive side. Kidding aside, completionists would love this game because of this.
The controls, the most important part of a physics puzzler, are horrible. Clunky, awkward and unresponsive, the controls flatten down a game that is actually thin in content to begin with. You just shoot the aliens in whatever direction you like with the analog nub, a la Angry Birds. It is hard to explain why the controls are weak, but if you play the game, this is the first set of flaws you’ll be frustrated at. For example, sometimes the controls seem to become “sticky,” while sometimes the controls loosen up. It is too inconsistent to get the hang of it.
Level design is pretty good. The game keeps on putting up new things, either for aesthetic purposes or as obstacles in the stage, so you’ll never get bored as things are kept fresh. I don’t like to sound like an elitist, but for those who had not yet played enough physics puzzlers, The Marbians would look like a milestone in video game history. I tell you, though, it really isn’t. There are lots of better physics puzzlers out there. But for Minis, this is the one of the few choices. There are levels in the game that are almost impossible to complete, and more impossible to do so if you are going after the 100% (collecting the orbs). Oddly, the game does not seem to progress by increasing difficulty, since some levels are way easier than preceding ones. Scoring, incidentally, is based on how many tries (the fewer, the better) it took you to complete the level in question, and you can only get the highest scores possible if you take all the blue orbs with you.
The Marbians does have a few of its own merits. It’s a polished, finished game. There is an achievement system to keep things interesting, and it’s substantial, though it could easily be better.
Yet, it feels like a direct port from the mobile environment. Or rather, it feels like the game is thrice removed from the truth, designed first as a PC/browser game, then ported over to mobile platforms and then to the Minis program. I haven’t tried it on other platforms, but I am pretty sure this is the exact same thing as on the others. Yes, The Marbians is polished, but it doesn’t have the PSP feel to it. It feels like I’m playing a Flash game right on my PSP. I don’t know, I am maybe over-thinking things, but this is exactly how I feel.
The Marbians is on the cheaper side of the Minis program, but sadly, it feels like you overpaid for it. Maybe I am just being a spoiled brat; I know people will love this game for its easy-to-learn, hard-to-master gameplay. The game is charming, and the music and sounds are cool. It captures the Roswellian, 1940s—or is it more 1950s—vibe of things. There’s a lot to like in this Mini, but if I can play better free games on browsers than on the PSP, I might as well not buy it. However, portability, as I’ve finally realized, has its price, and I’ll be willing to pay for it.