First up is our disclaimer. We received this game for review purposes only, and as such all opinions in this review are our own. No money has been exchanged for this review.
The mid-1980s was the heyday for the now-relegated video game arcade. Sure we still have family-oriented “pizza & games” centers, but those are more or less mini-amusement parks. Gone is the classic corner arcade. It was during the summer of 1984, in one of America’s most famous arcades (UCLA’s Westworld), that I put my first coin into Atari‘s latest wonder: Marble Madness. I loved it so much that I wound up buying a Commodore Amiga computer just so I could play the title at home!
The arcade machine in question had no buttons per se; rather a single large trackball in the center of the console. Steer the trackball to guide a small on-screen marble around obstacles, traps and pitfalls amid an ever-changing 3-D maze. If you successfully get the marble to the finish line, you’re presented with the next harder map. If that weren’t cool enough, two players could go head-to-head. It was great to see who could reach the finish line first, while simultaneously trying to knock the opponent’s marble off the map!
Over three decades later it’s great to see that the “marbleized” labyrinth hasn’t lost its staying power. Introducing Mazement, developed by Wronghut and published by Black Shell Media. In this single-player amalgamation, the story is simple. All spherical objects have been captured and imprisoned by the polyhedrons of the world, for reasons unclear. Refusing to take sides, your character must go around in an effort to save the orbs (both puns intended).
After a short tutorial map, you find yourself in a central hub room, with doors leading off to levels unknown. You’ll want to enter the door nearest you, as this takes you to a relatively easy map. Upon completion, you’re returned to the hub where you can take a stab at the next door, then the next and so on.
The gameplay itself reminds one of the physical tabletop puzzle, Labyrinth. You tilt the entire board, causing your marble to roll through the maze to the exit. Watch out for pits in the floor and mean cubes who suddenly pop out and smack you to death. Along the way, be sure to pick up any gold coins you find, as these can be used to purchase special power-ups that will greatly improve your chances later. Also, keep on the lookout for fellow spheres quivering in their cages. Roll into cages at speed to release your compatriots!
Back at the hub room you can visit the shop. Here’s where you spend your coins on those power-ups:
Spike Ball lets you steamroll through, and destroy your enemies; rather than stealthily evading them.
Big Jump is good for hopping over tall obstacles, thus avoiding treacherous parts of the map.
Zero Gravity lets you float over floor obstacles, such as pits.
Fireball allows you to burn through certain obstacles, as well as defeat maze bosses.
After completing all the rooms attached to the hub, you advance to the next part of the story…and yes, another hub! It seems a witch has turned you into an egg, and you must navigate a series of rooms to collect ingredients for the cure! I generally refrain from revealing story line, but the fact that eggs use different rolling physics than spheres is a good selling point for Mazement.
Now let’s discuss the controls. There are three ways to tilt the map board: joystick, mouse and keyboard. Of these, I find the keyboard easiest to use. By lightly tapping on the direction arrows (or whichever keys you have mapped), you can fine-tune your movement with surprising accuracy. I rarely fall into pits or roll out of bounds. If it weren’t for this option, I would’ve probably tapped out after the first few rooms. I tend to over-steer with pointing devices (give me a steering wheel and that’s a different story!).
The only glitch I’ve found so far is the inability to remap the mouse buttons. By default, the left button causes your marble to suddenly halt in its tracks…extremely useful. But the assignment feels unintuitive. I’d rather have it mapped to the right button, and use the left for “light hopping”, a utility for jumping over rubble and short walls. But these two functions seem forever reversed, and I occasionally press the wrong button at the wrong time. In all fairness, this could be due to a glitch in the Unity Engine, on which this game was developed. I’m sure the issue will be addressed in time.
As of this writing I’ve unlocked 4 of the game’s 6 available Steam achievements. One of them: “Find 3 Secrets” is a mystery in itself. I’ve found more than 3 secret areas but the achievement hasn’t popped. Perhaps the developer means something else by “secrets”. In any case, I’m looking forward to adding Mazement to the “Perfect Games” list on my Steam profile page soon.
So overall, is Mazement worth it? For fans of labyrinthine ball-rolling games, the answer is yes. Priced on Steam at $5 (USD), it’s a great value. Although there only 6 Steam achievements, they are quite challenging indeed. Acquire them all…if you dare!