Looking at Marble Duel‘s screenshots it is clear it got inspiration from the Sparkle-franchise. This kind of matching-3 genre is a popular casual experience on mobile or even high-end consoles. Marble Duel from developer Herocraft surprisingly breaks this casual approach and releases a challenging tactical turn-based marble matching game.
We played Marble Duel for seven hours on Xbox Series X
What we liked!
- A story inspired by fairytales: It is hard not to notice the huge effort that Herocraft did for the story mode. We have some fantastic fully-voiced characters here that make the journey through the many different levels an enjoyable one. A journey that you and your playable character Evy undertakes in all kinds of beautifully crafted lands. You always end up fighting against new threats that seem to come straight out of the series Once Upon a Time. And if you are wondering, that’s a compliment.
- This different take on the matching genre, adding a turn-based 1 vs. 1 system is really fun. Risky but it turned out great: We’ve all played Zuma or a Sparkle game before, right? For that one reader who doesn’t know what I’m talking about: In these kinds of games you have to match colored gems to reach a score or clear the playing field. Marble Duel does something entirely different but takes a lot of inspiration from before mentioned games. These turn-based battles against magical creatures controlled by the computer or against a local friend require a lot of luck but some tactical wit too. This means a lot more than matching red colored gems to deliver damage, every color has a different effect and needs to be carefully placed to get the best outcome. Blue gems put up a shield to block damage, yellow orbs deal a percentage of damage back that you receive, purple orbs deal bonus damage, green orbs heal lost health and black orbs deal damage to your avatar. While the challenge is a bit too hard I did have a lot of fun with the gameplay, it is addictive and really required the use of my brains, besides the luck-factor.
- Charming visuals: Marble Duel’s visuals are nicely done and always seem to feature something that stands out. From character portraits, effects, or environment settings everything is well designed and detailed enough. Unlike previous examples like Sparkle Marble Duel doesn’t shy away from using different environments and visuals. Keeping things a bit fresh throughout the campaign.
- Audio: Voice-acting is beyond expectations for a game like this, they really manage to do a fine job with giving each character personality. Because you have to replay the levels so often the music kinda gets a bit bland though. So I was quick to turn those off and use Spotify instead.
- Playing against a friend: Having this option is fantastic but I was it was a bit more fleshed-out. Now it seems like an afterthought. While it is nice to pick campaign villains as your character it is disappointing that it has a severe lack of different layouts. I don’t get why not all levels are included here? It just misses a few additional possibilities and setting to truly be something worth to play on a regular basis.
What we disliked
- Overwhelmingly difficult: While the levels have a set board everything regarding marble colors is random. This means that by nature Marble Duels is pure luck-based, this in combination with very skilled computer players is regularly a bit frustrating. Especially because they often take impossible shots and seem to know what comes next (which isn’t an option for you). Without a doubt, this will lure some casual gamers too as they seek out games in the matching genre but they will end up getting alienated with the tough as nails difficulty.
- Clearly a game that was previously balanced with in-app purchases: In another life, this game was named Evy: Magic Spheres a free-to-play mobile game with in-app purchases. Herocraft made some changes and tried to balance everything out but literally failed hard. As a result, you’ll have to play specific rounds many, many times as the computer simply has too many unfair advantages and it is near impossible to win. A few fights like this happen throughout the story campaign and only sheer luck will help to finally overcome the challenge.
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