Marble Mountain Review – Oculus Rift

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The problem with trying to review anything having to do with virtual reality is that mere words cannot convey what you see, feel, and experience when you slip on a VR headset. Such is the case with Lightning Rock’s new VR game, Marble Mountain.  Screenshots and videos do a reasonable job of showing you what the gameplay will be like when playing on a normal monitor, but prepare to have your jaw smack the floor when you slip on the Oculus Rift and see these epic mountain worlds brought to uncanny 3D life right before your eyes.   Seriously, it looks like somebody sculpted dozens of 3D models from stone, grass, rock, and water and dropped it in your living room, gave you a marble and said, “Here…figure it out.”

I grew up playing games like Marble Madness and Super Monkey Ball, so I am no stranger to navigating spheres around 3D game worlds, but nothing could have prepared me for the totally immersive experiencing of doing that in virtual reality. Most people associate VR with a first-person experience; something that puts you IN the game.

In Marble Mountain you have a god’s-eye view of the play space (which sent my mind reeling at the potential of RTS games) and you use your mouse/keyboard or preferably a controller to navigate your marble from its starting location to the exit.  Along the way you may have to flip a few switches and collect some gold medallions and try to do it as fast as possible in order to earn that coveted Gold ranking.  Levels range in length and difficulty with frequent torch checkpoints allowing you to resume if you take a nasty spill off the map.

Marble Mountain is played from an isometric view with cameras that are under the control of a virtual director.   I’m sure there are many who would rather assume direct control over the camera but rest assured, the automated camera system is flawless.  I never once died due to a poor camera angle and more often than not the automatic camera would anticipate the proper angle and already switch to it before I could have done it myself.  While the camera is fixed the player does have the ability to look around this 3D world by moving their head, allowing you to look around, over, or behind objects, or even get nose-touching close to the virtual mountain and appreciate all the stunning details.

Gameplay is surprisingly exhilarating as you navigate your marble along treacherously narrow paths searching for numerous gold medal collectibles and eventually the exit. As you progress further into the level select map the mountains get more devious with traps and puzzles that must be solved to complete each level.  There is a great variety to the themes and the designs for each level including various climates and a mix of indoor and outdoor exploration.

Marble Mountain offers 20 levels for $10. Depending on your skill you can race through the entire game in 3-4 hours, but if you are looking for all the hidden gold medals you can probably add another hour or two to the length.   And even then, each level is timed so you can always replay to improve your performance and rise up those leaderboards.

With so many VR titles trying to put you IN the experience it was refreshing to play a game that offers a unique eye-in-the-sky perspective. The Oculus Rift version of Marble Mountain may play very much like its non-VR counterpart at the most basic level, but when those mountains appear right before you in all their touchable glory, the whole experience redefine the very concept of 3D gaming.

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