Switchball HD
Gameplay 9
Graphics 8
Sound 8

Switchball HD is the definitive version of this classic puzzle platformer. The higher frame rate, along with the visual enhancements, makes this game a treat to play, and the gameplay is still as addictive as it was all those years ago. Atomic Elbow clearly put a lot of effort into this release, and we recommend it to all fans of the original as well as newcomers.

Gameplay: Easy to pick up and play, but later levels will really challenge your skills.

Graphics: Switchball has never looked better, thanks to a range of improvements.

Sound: Features a great soundtrack and realistic sound effects

Summary 8.3 Outstanding
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Switchball HD

Developer: Atomic Elbow | Publisher: Atomic Elbow | Release Date: 2021 | Genre: Puzzle / Platformer / Indie | Website: Official Website | Purchase: Steam

Ever since Marble Madness rolled on to the scene in 1984, there has been no shortage of games that have attempted to copy its winning formula. However, it wasn’t until hardware was powerful enough to support proper physics that these types of games flourished. From Super Monkey Ball to Kula World, there are plenty of console classics, but for most PC owners, the obvious choice was Switchball. The game was released in 2007 and wowed players with its beautiful visuals as well as impressive physics that was incorporated into the puzzles. The game was later released on Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network, but unfortunately, PC owners who wanted to replay this classic found it a struggle on newer versions of Windows. Thankfully, Swedish Developer Atomic Elbow released this HD update of the game on Steam, making it more accessible for both old and new players.

Switchball HD doesn’t waste any time with convoluted storylines or cut-scenes. You are simply given control of a marble ball and tasked with safely navigating it through courses that are suspended in mid-air. Falling off the course returns you to the last checkpoint, and there are plenty of obstacles in your way to ensure you don’t just breeze through the course. The opening levels might give you the impression that Switchball HD is a casual and relaxing game, but the challenge ramps up considerably after completing a few worlds.

With 30 levels spread across five worlds, Switchball HD is not a very long game, but conquering all of them won’t be as easy as you might think. Players only need to complete the third level in each world to unlock the next world, but all levels must be completed to reach the final and most formidable challenge; Lavaworld. The game can be played with or without a timer, and there is no penalty for ignoring the timer. In fact, it is still possible to earn bronze, silver, and gold medals for each level even if the timer is not visible. Enabling the timer makes it easier to see how close you are to beating the par times, but it is nice that it can be disabled as it can serve as a distraction.

The first few worlds in Switchball HD are relatively straightforward and introduces players to the types of obstacles and traps featured in the game. Everything from wood boxes and heavy metal cubes to fans and magnets stands in the way of your marble ball. To even the odds a bit, your marble ball can be transformed using the stations that are dotted throughout some levels.

These allow you to imbue the marble ball with metal, electric, and lighter-than-air properties. For example, the metal ball can push around heavy objects and roll past fans without getting blown away like the lighter balls. Unfortunately, it’s much slower, can fall through fabric, and can get grabbed by nearby magnets. On the other hand, the power ball can be given properties such as jumping, speeding, or turn magnetic while holding down a button. The game throws all kinds of innovative ways to use these abilities at you, which makes solving the puzzles and completing the levels very rewarding.

Visually, Switchball has never looked better, and the game can hold its own against most modern titles. The original game ran at 30 fps, which was decent for its time, but the new version runs at 60 fps, which feels a lot smoother. Presets for low, medium, high and ultra graphics also ensure that it should run on most computers. The game now also features widescreen and 4K support, which is a big step up from the 4:3 aspect ratio of the original, as is the much higher resolution textures. We won’t go into the technical details, but suffice to say that the rendering of Switchball HD has definitely been modernized.

The five worlds in the game all have different themes and features increasingly complex layouts. All of them are suspended in mid-air, though, and some of the precision platforming sections were tense enough to almost give us vertigo. The music for Switchball HD remains relaxing and unobtrusive throughout, and the sound effects help sell the fact that the types of marbles you control have weight to them as they roll and bounce around.

We initially played Switchball HD using a controller but found that moving around the camera with the right analog stick is a bit cumbersome. However, when switching over to a keyboard and mouse, this was no longer an issue, and moving the camera to where we needed it was a breeze. It is also possible to zoom the camera in or out to help navigate tight spots or get a better overview of your surroundings. The ability to hold down a button that lowers the angular momentum of the marble was also a great help in certain spots. The physics also feels improved over previous versions of the game.

Switchball has lost none of its charm or addictiveness over the years, and this HD release is the best version yet. The later levels, particularly Cloudworld and Lavaworld, are not for the easily frustrated, but the checkpoints help avoid needless repetition. While it won’t take too long to complete all the levels, multiple attempts will be needed to obtain those elusive gold medals. Some of these require players to discover the hidden paths through levels that can shave valuable seconds off your total time. Players looking to really challenge themselves will also appreciate the inclusion of online leaderboards.

Switchball HD comes highly recommended whether you have fond memories of playing the original or are familiar with the genre but never had the opportunity to play this game. It can become very challenging, but it is addictive enough that you’ll keep coming back for more. We would have liked to see some additional worlds and levels, but it is great to see that Atomic Elbow has used the levels that were improved or streamlined for the console releases in this version. We recommend checking out the free demo of Switchball HD for anyone still on the fence, as it features all six levels of the first world.

*Review based on Switchball HD v1.0.2

System Requirements

  • Requires a 64-bit processor and operating system
  • OS: Windows® 10 64-bit
  • Processor: Intel® Core™ i3 3250 3.5 GHz or Intel Pentium G4560 3.5 GHz / AMD FX-4350 4.2 GHz
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 660 2GB or GTX 1050 2GB / AMD Radeon HD 7850 2GB
  • DirectX: Version 9.0c
  • Storage: 3 GB available space
  • Requires a 64-bit processor and operating system
  • OS: Windows® 10 64-bit (latest Service Pack)
  • Processor: Processor Intel® Core™ i5 2400 3.4 GHz or i5 7400 3.5 GHz / AMD Ryzen R5 1600X 3.6 GHz
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Video NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 970 4GB or GTX 1060 6GB / AMD R9 390 8GB Memory 8 GB RAM
  • DirectX: Version 9.0c
  • Storage: 3 GB available space

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