From the description on the back of the box you would think that Vertigo was a summer blockbuster movie waiting to blow your mind upon powering it up. From the price tag on the front you quickly realize that this was designed as an experiment in fun, which surprisingly works out. The concept of Marble Madness is a classic formula. Moving a ball around a convoluted maze while balancing speed and precision is still as addictive today as it was back in the days of the NES. Developer Icon has harnessed this classic game type and added a few spins to the formula, including the ability to implement Nintendo’s balance board into the mix. Vertigo is a fun title that may feel more like WiiWare, but at twenty bucks it is hard to argue the value of this disc-based game.
According to the story in the game you are a Xorber, a member of the elite Xorb Racing Corp., which must mean there is someone inside your little ball that you use to traipse around the levels. What this really boils down to is an excuse to navigate your orb through a maze as fast as you possibly can. There are a total of 54 levels to conquer, and even a nice selection of modes to choose from to spice up the action. In total the game clocks a lot of content to make it worth the twenty bucks, but only if you enjoy the hair-pulling excitement of rolling a ball through various mazes.
Standard modes apply here; we have Time Attack, Arcade, Practice and Career modes. Each one is self-explanatory. The career mode allows you to tackle the levels in various order depending on difficulty. There is also a bowling mode that lets you hurl your Xorb at ten pins in a pure exercise of frustration. I say this because the physics in this mode are not nearly as good as in the main game. Every time I nailed the pins, things just did not work out as I would have hoped. A mode that could have changed the course of the game ends up being mildly disappointing in practice.
Controlling your Xorb works surprisingly well regardless of the method you choose to incorporate. This game does offer support for the Wii balance board, but I highly recommend tackling it with the standard Wii remote for the best results. Balance board control is much more challenging, and making it through some of the more difficult levels will prove frustrating. The game does a remarkable job of sensing the proper motions, but when you need to employ pinpoint precision, balancing your entire body just isn’t a practical method. The Wii remote works fantastically and will invoke memories of watching your parents flail a controller around in a racing game long before motion control was invented. You really get into the action here as you take one turn too sharply, and fall to your demise.
One of the bigger issues you will come across though is the camera system. It does manage to handle itself rather well considering, but adjusting it when need be is completely unorthodox in every manner of the word. You move it with the d-pad on the Wii remote, which if you can imagine, is rather hard to manipulate when your wrist is twisted upside down trying to angle the perfect pitch. This is not nearly as frustrating when using the balance board, but the trade off comes down to whether you want more difficult stages, or better camera control. I wish they had implemented the nunchuk control just for camera movement, as it would have solved a lot of these problems.
Visually the game looks like a twenty dollar title. When compared to other titles of similar nature (yes even on the Wii), the game lacks a certain polish. The 16×9 support is also forged with the traditional black bars on either side of the screen. Some of the environments though are designed rather well, creating a fun design while not being too bland. The effects are sub-standard, but for twenty bucks it isn’t going to deter from the fun. The music and sound effects are pretty much the same story. There is some decent work going on here, but the majority of it sounds like duty-free samples. Presentation in this game will not win any awards that is for sure.
Vertigo is a fun little title that takes the Marble Madness and Super Monkey Ball concepts into the budget arena. Navigating through the levels is enjoyable, and the motion controls work well enough to not be frustrating. The balance board support is appreciated, but not necessary and the multi-player feels really tacked on. If you like games such as Marble Blast for XBLA and the aforementioned titles there is enough here to warrant a pickup at twenty bucks. Trust me there is far worse software floating around on the system for a much higher price.