DISCLAIMER: THIS GAME INCLUDES ADULT CONTENT AND IS DESIGNED FOR MATURE AUDIENCE ONLY
I don’t know about the ball rolling genre, but I absolutely love it. Super Monkey Ball, Marble Madness, Kororinpa, etc. They all have the simple objective of rolling a ball through a stage to an exit, and that’s about it. Yes, there are bells and whistles added to every game to spice things up, but basically you’re just rolling a ball. Guess that’s all it takes to entertain me!
Marble Maid is the latest ball-rolling game of its kind, and it also offers, say…unique hang in there with the proven gameplay. For those unaware, Marble Maid is a ballgame with a very specific type of R-rated content. These “lewd” games took off (pun intended slightly expected!) in recent years, and they’ve definitely found a market on the Switch. There’s no doubt that more discussion of lewd games could/should take place, but I think most would agree that these titles generally lack substance in exchange for… ahem…style.
I don’t know, maybe that’s not a fair assessment. I’m by no means a fan of lewd games, but I’ve certainly heard fans of the genre complain about games that focus on lewd content to their detriment, pushing gameplay to the back burner at best. To be honest, this is exactly what I expected from Marble Maid, and turns out I was dead wrong. Sure, it’s not the most finely tuned gaming experience I’ve ever played, but I’ll be damned if it’s not a solid release, so much so that it’s kind of sad that adult content is a barrier to entry.
Now we are on a roll!
While the lewd content here is definitely the most interesting difference with this ball rolling game, Marble Maid also includes its own twist on game mechanics. objective before time runs out. Marble Maid has the same goal, but there’s a wrinkle in the mix. The only way out of each level is to crush three out of five dust bunnies. Once you hunt down at least three dust bunnies and get them out of their misery, the exit platform opens up. Now the “maid” in Marble Maid finally makes sense!
In Marble Maid, the pesky dust bunnies are part dust, part literal bunny, and they jump to avoid your marble at all costs. Of course, it’s your job to roll and clean these bunnies, just like any good stonemason would. Plus, just in case it wasn’t clear, Marble Maid features a literal maid trapped inside a “marble.” It’s the exact same kind of ball you’d see in Super Monkey Ball, but while AiAi and GonGon rush to pick up bananas, the titular Marble Maid just wants a spotless cleanup.
Outside of the dust bunny mechanic, Marble Maid is as simple as a ball rolling game could be. There’s a central area that lets you access different worlds, and each of them takes place on giant house-themed stages. Thematically, the scene makeups aren’t all that different, but unique hazards guide the bulk of the home areas. You’ll visit places with puddles, patches of ice, burners ready to ignite you, giant meat grinders looking to cut you in half, and more. Each of these worlds also uses an actual image to create its skybox, which helps create a more distinctive feel.
The long-awaited sequel to Bubble Boy?
Marble Maid is definitely a no-frills experience, but I’m all for that. Nothing distracts you from the gameplay, which is my favorite thing about titles like this. There’d be nothing wrong with a marble game that cooks up a grand story and deep lore, but when all is said and done, I’m just in for the ball rolling. Marble Maid definitely takes the less is more approach, and I think it works to the game’s advantage. Just let the gameplay speak for itself, and what’s here works.
Truth be told, I’ve spent time with ball rolling games that played much worse than Marble Maid. Quite a few, to be honest, but I enjoyed these titles despite the wonky controls. Clearly a lot of time has gone into Marble Checking with Marble Maid, and I really appreciate that. You never feel like you’re heading in a direction you didn’t want to, and you very rarely fight physics. There will be a weird moment here or where you have trouble going up an incline or around a wall, but that’s very rare. If you’ve played a Sonic game, you’re certainly familiar with the physical difficulties I’m referring to. These moments still occur in Sonic games to this day, but they’re almost never an issue in Marble Maid.
Unlike most marble games, Marble Maid also uses a jump button. There have been titles in the genre that use a jump mechanic, and sometimes I feel like that takes away from the fun. Again, it looks like Marble Maid was built with the jumping mechanic in mind from the start, so it works really well here. There are plenty of fun platforming elements scattered around, but they all work hand-in-hand with marble rolling, rather than being used as a way to skip rolling sections. There’s no doubt that speedrunners could save a lot of time jumping, but for the everyday gamer like me, the mix of jumps and rolls was perfect.
Oh man…I’m toast.
Overall, Marble Maid’s set design and levels are quite enjoyable. Each stage is fast-paced play, so almost nothing overstays its welcome. I say almost because there’s one type of scene in particular that I really didn’t like. Some scenes take place in the dark, and you have to go around candelabra to light up the scene. These levels are just too dark even after turning them on. Worse still, the lights only stay on for a short time. If you spend too much time looking for where to go, you’ll soon be even more in the dark, literally and figuratively. Unfortunately, there’s a decent amount of those dark scenes. I don’t outright hate them, but in my opinion they are definitely the lowest point in the game.
Other than those disappointing stages, the only other gameplay element that didn’t sit well with me was the boss fights. They’re miles beyond the dark scenes in terms of fun, but they still feel like they could have been fleshed out a bit more. Each boss stage features the same boss with a few new tricks, but all you have to do is dodge attacks and knock the boss out of the stage three times. There’s room for improvement here, as I think the boss mechanic could work, but what you’re given feels like it was nailed down rather than planned.
The no-frills approach I mentioned earlier carries over to the game’s visuals and audio as well. Marble Maid’s graphics do the job, but I wouldn’t say they’re anything to write home about. . The same goes for the game’s music, which has a few tunes that go well, and plenty more that just fill in the background. It would have been nice to see improved visuals and a more memorable soundtrack, but for a budget title that only costs $10, I think what we’re getting is quite decent at best and usable at worst.
I have an idea?
ATTENTION: ADULT SUBJECT DISCUSSED BEFORE
Finally, I obviously have to mention Marble Maid’s most egregious feature, the lewd content. The vast majority of this content does not appear in gameplay, but instead waits in a hub world gallery. The more stages you play and the more dusty bunnies you collect, the more lewd artwork you’ll unlock (official and fan-art included). The game constantly tells you when you’ve unlocked a new piece of art, and you can pop into the gallery at any time to give it a look.
I understand that the Switch version of Marble Maid is a somewhat censored version of what you can get in the PC version. That said, what you unlock here is 100% for adult eyes only, as there is nudity and some very suggestive poses/situations. Please note that this lewd content makes Marble Maid a 17+ game, as it is rated Mature by the ESRB for nudity and sexual content.
END OF ADULT DISCUSSION
I have no problem with “mature” content in games, but in the case of Marble Maid it’s somewhat disappointing to see it included. This is an extremely proficient ball rolling game; arguably one of the best out there. When you factor in the $10 price tag, it makes the package even more impressive. I really wish there were two versions of this game released on the Switch; one as the game is now, and another devoid of any lewd content so all fans of the genre can try. That said, the developers at Marble Maid had a vision for their game, and I respect their right to create the experience they wanted.
This act of faith takes balls
If you’re one of the 17+ years and you like games like Super Monkey Ball or Kororinpa, I really recommend Marble Maid. It’s not as polished in terms of presentation as those franchises, but the main gameplay mechanic is decent and it’s a lot of fun. Like I said, the $10 asking price really sweetens the deal and makes Marble Maid a bit of a steal. With all of these things considered, consider me a fan.
Hopefully a sequel that both livens up the presentation and includes a family option.