Ten years after the success of SimCity, Maxis has introduced its first puzzle game, Marble Drop. Against the backdrop of beautifully rendered Leonardo daVinci sketches, the player attempts to navigate colored marbles through a Rube Goldberg-esque series of ramps and elevators, hoping that the marble's final resting place will be in the correspondingly colored bin. Not as simple as it sounds. Every marble released radically alters the path of the marbles that follow. There are teleporters, buzzsaws, cannons, and crossbows that shoot your marble, and ramps may vanish off the playfield or lead your marble into an infinite loop. But it's not as exciting as it sounds.
Marble Drop may succeed as an interactive screen saver, but it fails to engage attention as a game. The only manner in which one participates is by selecting which color marble to drop into one of two funnels; everything else is predetermined by the course. Basically, you must scan the entire labyrinth before opting for the blue marble in lieu of the red one, dropping it, and waiting to see what happens. Points are awarded when marbles pass over, or through, point areas. Get enough points and you can "buy" replacement marbles for the ones you have lost. Or save up for the black marble - it mimics whichever color is needed to complete the level. There are fifty courses to choose from, ranging from the most basic introductory levels to the absolutely confounding invisible puzzle, and you are able to select the level from a user-friendly pull-down menu. Levels may also be approached linearly.
The graphics in Marble Drop are simple, yet effective and every screen is attractive to look at. Occasional sound effects like "swoosh," "bang," and "zzzzzz" are about it in the audio department. Marble Drop may help your concentration, but what you'll really need is help staying awake.