Over the years there have been a number of video game genres that have gone in and out of style. Once pretty popular, the “marble” genre of video games is kind of a niche genre today. Basically the premise of the genre is that you play as a marble with the objective of rolling around obstacles trying to reach the end destination. Marble Madness originally popularized the genre but some more modern games in the genre include the Super Monkey Ball series. While I wouldn’t say that I am a huge fan of this genre, I always kind of enjoyed the Super Monkey Ball series so I am intrigued when an interesting new game from the genre pops up. This is what intrigued me about Glyph as it looked like a combination of a marble game with a more traditional platformer. Glyph succeeds at taking an older video game genre and revolutionizing it in a way to create a highly satisfying and challenging platforming game that fans of the genre should really enjoy.
In Glyph you not surprisingly play as a mechanical beetle-like creature named Glyph. You and the other mechanical creatures are left in the remains of an ancient civilization. While the civilization was once advanced and flourishing, events lead to its downfall and the main temple being buried under the sand. Your task is to figure out what happened to the civilization and rebuild the temple in the process.
If I were to describe the gameplay of Glyph I would say that it feels a lot like what you would get if you combined a marble game with a platformer. The basic goal of each level is simple. Collect all of the keys and reach the exit without touching the sand or the dangers spread throughout the levels. If you touch the sand or a danger you will be sent back to the beginning of the level and you will lose all of the keys you already acquired. The game gives you a couple things to help you in this task. You start with a single jump which recharges whenever you touch a safe surface. You also have access to a glide and a double jump when you charge it in a designated area. Your most important tool though may be momentum as you can really fly through the air if you get enough momentum behind you.
All of the levels in the game basically break down into two types. Most of the levels are classified as exploration levels. These levels have no time limit and are mostly built around exploring the environment and picking up collectibles. The game has a number of different collectibles. First are coins which are used to unlock more exploration levels in the overworld. There are also gems which are used to unlock new sections of the overworld. Finally there are scarabs which you can collect after you pick up all of the coins in a level. These are used to unlock the various time trial levels. The last collectible is skins and trails for Glyph which require you to find a hidden symbol which opens up access to collect it. The keys and the skins are the only things that are lost when you die, so you can take your time exploring and gathering all of the collectibles.
The other type of levels in the game are time trials. These are pretty self explanatory. You need to collect all of the keys and make it to the exit before you run out of time. You will receive rewards based on how quickly you finish the level. These levels are quite short and require pretty precise timing and jumps to make it to the exit before you run out of time.
Of the two modes I preferred the exploration levels considerably more than the time trials. A lot of this probably has to deal with the fact that I have never been a big fan of time trials. The times in Glyph are also really short where you sometimes can’t even beat the worst time if you make any mistakes. To get the best times for most of the levels you need to pretty much have a perfect run.
I didn’t hate the time trial levels, but I greatly preferred the exploration levels. These actually played a lot like a platformer that has a lot of collectibles. You can actually skip most of the level if you are only interested in getting what you need to beat the level. Finding and gathering all of the collectibles is quite enjoyable though. To get some of them requires some real platforming skill as well. I thought it was really satisfying being able to collect all of objects in each of the levels.
I might not have explicitly said it yet, but I really enjoyed playing Glyph. I wouldn’t say that the marble genre is one of my favorites, but Glyph does a really good job tweaking it to appeal to fans of platformers as well. I think the main reason the game succeeds is that the gameplay is really satisfying which can be mostly attributed to the game’s controls. The game’s controls are honestly top notch which is a little surprising as you are controlling a rolling marble throughout the game. The game gives you a lot of control as you fly through the air which makes it much easier to complete impressive feats than it would first appear. This is helped by the game’s frame rate which remains steady even in handheld mode. The controls just make the gameplay so satisfying as when you fail it is 100% your fault.
Lets move onto the game’s difficulty. I think this can vary quite a bit. I would like to say that I haven’t completed the game yet so I can’t say how hard the last levels get. I will say that the game probably could have done a better job with the difficulty spikes though. Some of the levels can be quite easy, and then the next level is considerably more difficult. Some of the levels can be kind of frustrating as one failed jump sends you back to the beginning of the level. To get the best times in the time trials I could see doing the same level 50+ times (these levels are really short). The good news is that the exploration levels are quite forgiving as you only lose your collected keys and skins when you die so you don’t have to revisit the entire level over again. Your deaths in the game are your fault, but it can still be frustrating at times when you die over and over again in the same place until you get your jumps perfect.
Other than Glyph’s sometimes frustrating difficulty, I would say that the biggest issue that I had with the game was that once you are introduced to all of the mechanics, the game doesn’t really change all that much. The level layouts is the only real change to the gameplay. The level design is generally really good and I enjoyed the gameplay a lot so this wasn’t a big issue for me. I mostly bring this up as you shouldn’t expect the gameplay to significantly change once all of the mechanics are introduced. The gameplay is still really fun, but a little more variety may have been appreciated the further you get into the game. This ultimately makes Glyph more of a game that you play for 30 minutes to an hour at a time instead of something that you play for hours at a time.
While the atmosphere doesn’t usually matter for these type of games, I appreciated that the developers still put in effort to create a good atmosphere for the game. The game does utilize a desert theme as most of each level is covered in sand. In a way the atmosphere reminds me a lot of Ancient Egypt. The game builds the safe zones around the remnants of long abandoned and destroyed buildings. I think this was a clever design choice as the atmosphere isn’t cluttered with elements that seem out of place. In general I thought the game’s visuals looked quite nice. Along with the game’s audio which is also quite good, the game does a really good job creating a relaxing atmosphere which works well for the game. The story is nothing special as it is basically just about another fallen civilization, but I applaud the game for even including a story as these type of games rarely even have one.
As for the game’s length I can’t give a definitive length as I haven’t quite completed Glyph yet. I will say that I was impressed though. The game apparently has 80+ exploration levels and 30 time trials. With these many levels you will be able to spend a lot of time with the game. For example if you try to collect everything in the exploration levels, most should take you around 15 or so minutes to complete. As for the time trials the best times are usually less than 30 seconds, but when you factor in all of the failures they likely will take quite a bit of time as well. I don’t have a definitive time, but if you fully explore everything that the game has to offer you likely will easily get your money’s worth.
While Glyph looked fun from the gameplay trailer, I have to say that I was kind of surprised by the game as it was even more enjoyable than I thought. The game feels like a combination of a typical marble game mixed with platforming mechanics. Basically your goal in each level to to collect the keys and reach the exit without touching the sand. This may seem simple, but the game is really satisfying. A lot of this can be attributed to the controls as they work fantastically. This leads you to soar through the sky completing platforming challenges that look really impressive. If the game’s concept interests you at all, you should have a blast playing it. It is also surprisingly longer than I expected it to be. I will say that the game has some issues with the difficulty curve as there can be some wild swings at times. The main gameplay doesn’t really change much throughout the game either.
If Glyph’s combination of marble and platforming mechanics doesn’t really appeal to you, the game may not be for you. If you have any interest in the game’s premise though, you likely will really enjoy Glyph and should consider picking it up.
Buy Glyph online: Nintendo Switch
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Bolverk Games for the review copy of Glyph used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.