New to the Xbox Indie scene is Projectile Entertainment with their first game, Momentum. A simple concept, that has been realised in the past, with an early release on Microsoft’s previous console by the name of Marble Blast Ultra, which quickly became a cult hit. Then going even further back in time to my days of NES gaming with Marble Madness. Truly a masterpiece, and despite there only being 6 levels, it was an instant hit. Now, Momentum is here to bring us a new take on a marble centric puzzle genre, and can it take said genre to dizzying new heights? Or will it languish in the doldrums? Well, truth be told, it is neither. But most certainly veering toward the latter. Which is a crying shame, as I was not alone in setting my hopes high for this. So what went wrong, and how far has the marble fell?
One aspect of any game I always assert that is of utmost importance with any game, is gameplay. For me, this is more of an essential in any game. It can look as pretty as you like, but if the gameplay is akin to attempting to steer a rhino on roller blades around the Nurburgring, then it will fall flat on it’s face. This is the crux of Momentum’s downfall, and given it is the developer making their first ever game, I’m going to cut them some slack. The main problem with the controls is a tricky one with regards to how they could resolve the problem I have had like so many other people. I can’t say what would work without losing an integral part of the game.
What I found to be a hindrance was the camera. Along with using one analogue stick to rotate the maze, the other rotates the camera. This means you don’t directly control the marble. So guiding your spherical friend around some of the most fiendishly designed levels I have ever come across is one unbearable challenge. But removing the ability to control the game world like this and transfer full control to the marble could end up making the game ridiculously simple. Stuck between a rock and a hard face. A lot of effort has been dedicated to this game from the two person team, and they at least deserve some credit for their creation.
The big issue aside, Momentum has a pleasing visual style, with simple colours, and no fancy bits tacked on, enabling you to focus on the task ahead. Which is simply to get from start to finish in the quickest possible time. You have the standard Gold, Silver and Bronze medals awarded upon completion on a level. Some of the time limits are insane, even on the first section. One of the early levels has just 3 seconds for completion, and my first attempt was 22 seconds. You can effectively “cheat” by pressing the jump button to hop onto sections of track further ahead. The game does little in way of tutoring you with what buttons perform what actions. For instance, you are not informed that your bumper buttons zoom in and out. I found this out by accident. It is essential that you see as much as you can before a level starts. But a saving grace is that the timer countdown does not commence until you make a move. Allowing you to figure out your route.
Te ambient music is relaxing as you become increasingly frustrated with the game. More often than not you will fall off the level more times than you count, and you quickly come to realise that Momentum is not for the casual gamer. Only Master puzzle gamers will find any level of success here, which is a shame, as what is on offer, is a game that has been crafted which under the right circumstances, would appeal to many.
You have over 90 levels to delve into, and sadly many will not see a fraction of these. They become increasingly more difficult, and by level 15 you would find this impossible to believe, but sure enough, they get harder. The backdrops are of city and mountainous landscapes which remind me if the PlayStation cult hit Kula World. A zen like state is intended here, in an attempt to make you feel relaxed. This works, but only for so long. My sessions lasted between 15 and 30 minutes at most, given how irritated I became.
So where the game goes horribly wrong, does it do anything right? Yes. It offers what could be the toughest challenge from any puzzle game yet on current generation consoles. If you wish to be put to the test, then you are in for a treat. I want to like this game, but it’s a live/hate relationship. I won’t totally abandon it, but I also won’t be playing it on a regular basis. But that’s just me. The idea was a great one, but the execution fell short of the finishing line.
You have plenty of new skins for your marble which is a nice touch. There are one skin for each achievement unlocked and for certain levels. A nice cosmetic touch. I won’t spoil what you can unlock, but they spice it up a tad. The amount of levels will keep you playing for quite some time. So the value for money aspect is well and truly in the house.
To conclude, Momentum isn’t the Marble Madness game that some of us had hope for, and it does have setbacks. But that is not to say that the end product is to ignore. Just make certain that you are of the puzzle expert variety, and you should have little problem with the mind bending courses that lie ahead.
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