In fact, since the days of Marble Madness there have been countless rolling-ball games out there, including some relatively recent Indie games such as Polyball emerging from Early Access in recent months.
A new studio, Adaptive Games have entered the genre earlier this month by releasing Technosphere onto Steam Early Access for just 55p (69¢), earlier this month.
The game takes place in a giant geodesic sphere in space, orbiting Saturn. In the distance, the sun shines in brightly, while Saturn and its rings turn lazily in the background surrounded by a field of stars and nebulae. Surrounding the space-borne marble-run is a huge white geodesic sphere, which provides a beautiful backdrop for the game.
You take control of the Technosphere, a metallic ball which emits rays of bright white light, and can roll freely around the three dimensional levels. Like “The Ball”, from the game of the same name, the Technosphere is largely hollow, and its status can be deduced from the colour of light being emitted from it. In this case, the game allows for a “jumping mode” where the ball shines with a white light. Unlike The Ball which used a gravity-like gun, you control the Technosphere directly.
The aim of the game is to reach the end of the level. A rough story is provided at the start of the game to explain why you control a ball on a bunch of levels, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense, and has no impact on the game as it is, so we won’t go into it.
The levels are complex, multi-level and interesting, with gantries passing over and under each other. There are platforms and little ramps to fly off and areas with piles of boxes which are great fun to smash into and send the boxes scattering into the abyss.
As you roll around the maze, you are occasionally restricted from jumping, while at other times it’s allowed by passing through rings with either white or green light. this is very reminiscent of the gates in “Fury of the Furries” as well as a host of other games which changed your character’s status by passing through some static McGuffin.
The second level has a very different, much darker, feel to the first level. It’s a little bit more varied too, and features some beautiful effects, showing off the engine nicely. There are some lovely glass panels, and some crystals which provide a pointless but attractive distraction.
The game features some gorgeous effects. These crystals refract and reflect the light, and sound gorgeous.
The second level also features the gun, which I suspect will feature more in later levels. It’s a free-floating plasma launcher that sits in the middle of a ring of platforms, letting loose a prodigious volley of energy balls. You have to move quickly, or it’ll blast you off the platform! There are also other balls rolling passively around which can knock you off the platform if you’re not careful.
The bright disco-feel to the levels, along with the travel tubes which look just like they came out of a pinball machine makes the whole game feel fun, bright and interesting. If I had to classify it, I’d say it was like a cross between The Ball, Marble Madness and Pinball Dreams.
The controls are astonishingly easy to master, since the camera is locked to one of four cardinal directions and control is via WASD. Unlike Marble madness, the game doesn’t force your brain to grapple with isometric views, having to get used to “W” being “north-west”, In Technosphere, “A” and “D” are always left and right from your perspective, while “W” and “S” are ‘into’ and ‘out of’ the screen respectively.
Once it has passed through a white ring, the ball can be made to jump with the space bar. This means that your left-hand will be doing almost all the work, with your right hand only needed to press the right-control key to rotate the camera to the right. Using the mouse for the view direction might be nice, but would probably be a nightmare to keep the controls simple.
The levels are quite well designed, with lots of hazards and obstacles. The various parts are ‘active’ and will light up as you pass over them, and can be affected by switches etc. The game uses a lot of verticality, though, and the restricted views can make it a little tricky to see how to get from A to B.
Right now the sound uses a lot of stock sounds and the nice ambient music remains the same throughout. However it’s in the graphics department that the developer has put the most effort. The game makes very heavy use of shaders and other sfx, so I wouldn’t attempt to play this just yet if you have an older graphics card (say more than 3 or 4 years). On my GTX1070 it is usually smooth as butter, but occasionally dipped when a lot of texture was on screen. Graphics performance has been raised, so optimisation may be on the horizon.
As a graphical and gameplay demo it works really nicely, However it’s only very early access, so don’t expect a lot of variety, or a lot of media content.
It’s must be said, however, that the game is only priced at 55p or 69¢ to reflect its early alpha status. That’s less than a bar of chocolate, and’ll last a lot longer. So if you like puzzlers that use balls or physics, it’s worth having a play. Make sure you have a relatively new graphics card though!
It’ll give you between 45 minutes and an hour of marble fun, and might turn into a nice investment if the game is expanded to have more levels and a proper story. Given the extremely low price, and the content that’s there already, I’d say it’s a good start for this little puzzle game, and I’m looking forward to what comes next.
You can pick the game up here: