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For: iPad   Also on: iPhone

The spirit of the '80s

Product: Marbly | Publisher: WildSnake Software | Format: iPad | Genre: Casual, Puzzle | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
Marbly iPad, thumbnail 1
Last month, EA released Tetris Blitz, a shrill ultra-modern freemium take on Alex Pajitnov's masterpiece. Tetris Blitz is brash and colourful, and in its wholehearted adoption of IAP-driven game design it embodies what many traditional gamers feel is wrong with the medium today.

Some of these traditional gamers might have tried to imagine what Alex Pajitnov made of Tetris Blitz, assuming no doubt that he was somewhere on the spectrum between appalled and amusedly dismissive.

Well, they'd be wrong. If Marbly is anything to go by, his principle feeling towards Tetris Blitz was admiration. Yes, it's true - the father of modern casual games has gone freemium.

To be fair, that's the only respect in which Marbly resembles Tetris Blitz. Whereas playing EA's game is like being at a high-tech megadisco, playing Pajitnov's is like being at a community centre. It looks basic to the point of being amateurish, and it's as untrendy as you can imagine.

The aim is simple. There are balls of various colours arranged in patterns on a chess-like board. You have to make all of them disappear by matching them in a straight or diagonal line of three or more. To do this you tap on a ball and then tap again on the square you want to send it to. If it doesn't make a match, it springs back to where it started.

In the game of Marbly, you match or you retry

Whenever you touch a ball, preview lines appear showing you where it can go. At first it's trivially easy to make a match because you generally have few options. And, in fact, it stays trivially easy to make a match. The difficulty consists in knowing which matches to make so as to avoid leaving unmatchably scattered balls.

This very quickly becomes a serious challenge, and you'll have to stare at the board thinking several moves ahead if you hope to get to the end of a round without using hints and undoing moves. The chessboard backdrop turns out to be appropriate, as Marbly forces you to use exactly the same cogs in your head.

IAPs explained
In Marbly, you can spend Coins on cheats and on unlocking the second two volumes. The cheats come in bundles of various sizes from one to seven, but they each cost ten Coins.

You can earn Coins by completing challenges, but not very many. Or you can buy them for 69p / 99c for ten, £1.49 / $1.99 for 25, or £3.99 / $6.99 for 100.
You start the game with a set number of cheats. There are hints, which tell you what the best move - or more usually the only move - is, assuming it's still available; solves; restarts; and undos.

To buy more you need to spend in-game currency called Coins, which you accumulate by completing challenges such as solving a puzzles within a set time or a limited number of moves. And, of course, you can just buy them with your actual money out of your bank.

You're entitled to wonder whether Marbly would be as difficult if it weren't possible to buy cheats. The answer is probably not. If this idea bothers you, you'll be even more bothered to learn that you have to pay to unlock the second and third volumes for 100 Coins each, which means £3.99 / $6.99 in real money. You can of course earn this money through competing challenges, but only at a rate of a few coins at a time.

However, Marbly is a free game so it's difficult to object too much. If you really don't want to spend any money, what you're left with is an original, clever, highly challenging, and incredibly naff-looking puzzler that will keep you busy for a long time if you're a fan of games like chess.
Reviewer photo
Rob Hearn | 10 June 2013
This latest puzzler from veteran Alex Pajitnov looks like it was made in the '80s, but it provides a hefty challenge and it's free
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