Price: 800 MS points
Graphics: 9 out of 10
The levels can really get quite fiendish later on.
When Xbox Live Arcade was first unveiled most people imagined that the games would all be 2D in nature. After all there's a 50mb size limit on each game, so it would be pretty hard to fit anything 3D into that restriction. But, thanks to the bespoke shader engine that developer Garage Games have developed, not only is Marble Blast Ultra in full 3D, but it features quite detailed texture maps, and everything has a polished sheen to it. The marble itself it particularly life like. Some levels even have you rolling around on ice which looks just as you'd expect - all cold and slippery.
Everything moves along at quite a pace too - I've never experienced any slowdown in the game, even in the online mode (more on that later).
Sound and Music: 6 out 10
Functional, but not offensive is probably the best way to describe the sound in Marble Blast Ultra. There isn't really anything that will get on your nerves, but then again there's nothing astounding here either. The squeaking sound of the ball as it rolls on ice is quite cool I guess. The music is a selection of upbeat dancey tunes which again are hardly a revelation but probably won't make you reach for the mute button in disgust.
I've already mentioned the gem collecting earlier in the review, and this forms the crux of the online multiplayer battle mode. In this mode, gems randomly appear in the level, and the players have to race each other to pick them up. Once all of the current gems have been snaffled up, another set appears elsewhere in the stage and the players all race off once again. There are red gems worth one point, yellow ones worth two, blue ones worth 5 and probably more that I haven't seen yet. The power-ups from the single player mode all return in multiplayer and can make all the difference when it comes to winning or losing. It makes for a fast, fun game that is a great complement to the single player game, and gives you a reason to keep playing once all 60 of the puzzle levels have been beaten.
The Achievements in Marble Blast Ultra include beating the levels, beating the par times, winning online games, getting a certain score in multiplayer and so on. They aren't as inventive as some games doing the rounds but they do give you a little incentive to try and finish the game.
MBU is definitely one of the better looking games on XBLA.
Innovation & Cleverness: 7 out of 10
The basic time-trial game of getting a marble (or monkey in a ball) has been around for years, but the inventive power-ups and multiplayer mode helps set Marble Blast Ultra apart and stop it from becoming simply a "me too" title.
Value & Replayability: 8 out of 10
60 levels isn't really a whole lot compared to the 100+ plus featured in the Super Monkey Ball games, but when you remember that they cost £30 at least, and Marble Blast Ultra is only about £6, you can't really grumble. There is some replay from trying to beat the par times, and the leaderboard is a nice touch. Then you have the multiplayer mode which you can come back to for as long as you want. The great thing about this game is that it's readily available to all Xbox 360 owners that are online and is very cheap, so they'll never be a shortage of people to play against. It's a shame you can play against a friend locally, but I suppose we can't have everything.
Overall: 8 out of 10
Marble Blast Ultra is definitely one of the better games available on the Xbox Live Arcade, and I highly recommend checking it outespeciallyly if you're a fan of the Super Monkey Ball games or even the classic Marble Madness. Rather than being a rehash though, MBU does have enough new elements to make it worth having a go even if you already have those games on other formats.