iso-Sphere; that’s right iso-Sphere with lowercase letters, is a unique sort of isometric, casual puzzle game for hardcore players that has you rolling a marble around to the exit flag of over forty levels. Its a beautiful game with great, mellow music that will put you in the focused state you’ll need to be in to use precision, patience momentum to get your sphere where it needs to be. Marble Madness may come to your mind like it did mine, but get that thought out of there. These are levels with narrow platforms that get even thinner by the end of the game and that’s why its so challenging. You’ll fall off again and again, but thanks to the game’s great aesthetic and sound, you’ll stay in its eye and ear pleasing world.
The game plays easy enough, but some players might not understand how up goes west, right goes north, down goes east and left goes south. That’s it, you now know the controls. There’s no jumping, only rolling and there’s a subtlety and nuance to the roll. The game has great, spot on physics. You’ll need momentum to go up hills and make it to the top, so a few places you’ll need to roll backward to move forward. You can use your keyboard and mouse or a 360 controller for the game itself. The main menu still requires you to use a mouse, but the pause menu lets you hit the A button to keep going.
These levels all have par times to get a ribbon along with a few stars to collect here and there. A few levels have checkpoints to touch. Every fall off a platform respawns you, so there’s no fear of death or failure. The flag finish just needs the slightest touch of its square to be considered complete. While I’d prefer if you had to touch the flag itself, I found myself welcoming the exploit.
Each world has its own theme that seems to be based on seasons. You’ll start out in a yellow sunny desert theme, then visit a beautiful snowy winter before traveling to a pretty green fall. Well you’ll visit fall a lot every time you leave a platform. The levels themselves are simple, but the backgrounds more than make up for it. You’ll see fluttering leaves, twinkling snowflakes and bubbling circles. It might seem distracting when you read this, but everything rests on the sphere itself.
The game ramps up the difficulty and diversity pretty nicely. You’ll leave the comfort of pathways, ramps and moving platforms to face the challenge of ice blocks that break after you’ve touched them, but not when you touch them. iso-Sphere uses these to great effect and makes use of a three dimensional world, that lets you fall down these ice blocks one by one. The autumn starts to have gusts of wind that blow your ball off course, followed by narrow balance beams that will test anyone’s patience and control.
You’ll need patience if you’re going to make it through all of the unlockable levels. It has a great menu that lets you select any level you’ve unlocked, but I wish that when completing the tenth level of each world it would move you on to the next world instead of kicking you back to the menu again.
There’s also an area to change your iso-sphere amongst a few colors. My favorite is the psychedelic cow print sphere, but it can be distracting since the print itself moves. In fact all of the textures on the spheres will slowly move, but its just more pronounced on the cow.
As I’ve mentioned before, the music is great and well done. For the most part its soothing, but it does pick up its tempo in the later half of the game. These tunes adds a lot to the game and make it feel like a well polished, professional product. If it wasn’t for the great style of art and music blended together I might not have made it as far as I did.
If you want an unconventional game that’s easy to pick up and play, but difficult to master its nuances, this is it. If you go in expecting the next Marble Madness, you might be disappointed. At $3 its worth taking a risk to see if you’ve got the focus and patience to make it through the challenge. I’d like to thank Mighty Fox Studio for giving me a copy of the game.