They say that the best things in life are bad for you. If it tastes good, it will ruin your teeth. If it sounds good, it will ruin your ears. If it feels good, it will get you arrested.
Video games sometimes follow this mold. I lost about 8 months of my life to Star Control 2. I almost lost a great girl to WarCraft 2. And I lost hours of sleep, most of my homework assignments, and a fair chunk of my sanity to a little number called Tetris.
So when a game comes along that claims to be 'super addicting' and 'maniacal fun', I smile inwardly and avoid it at all costs. This means that most puzzle games are left alone. In the case of Lose Your Marbles, however, I found myself compelled to open the box and run a full install. Perhaps it was the "better than Tetris or your money back" claim that caught my eye. This is no joke; the daring folks at SegaSoft will actually give a full refund if you don't think it's better than Tetris. A bold claim indeed.
Lose Your Marbles is your standard puzzle game. The object is to get rid of as many marbles as you can as quickly as possible. This is accomplished by lining up at least three marbles of the same color in the Pitch line (the middle row). You deal with five columns of marbles, and as the game wears on, more marbles fill each column.
Every time you eliminate 3 or 4 of the color of the marble above the marble Counter, you increase the counter. When you make 5 marbles disappear at once, you dump more on your opponent. This number depends on how many marbles are on the marble Counter. Seem confusing? Don't worry - it's much easier than it sounds.
There are also Bonus Rounds where you have to get rid of a certain number of marbles in 2 minutes. Doing so gives you special marbles for the next board. These marbles have special abilities, such as sending stones to your opponent
The feel is similar to Super Puzzle Fighter, but with a huge difference. Not every marble that disappears gets dumped on your opponent; only after you break five in a row. This forces you to find a balance between trying to get rid of your own marbles and dumping on your friend. There's a good deal of strategy locked up in this decision. Should you go for the big drop, or should you just clear space and wait for your opponent to slip up?
There are three difficulty levels, all of which present a decent challenge. Playing with a friend is fun, and the game supports LAN capability.
The graphics are fine if not exceptional. Not much is required - you don't really need to use z-buffering and high polygonal counts for this kind of game. Speaking of requirements, it's nice to see a game that just about anyone can play. While every other game that comes out requires the newest Direct X drivers and 4 MB of VRAM, simple puzzle games rely on gameplay, not graphics.
As far as the Tetris claim, it's a tough call. It's been a good 10 years since the game was first released - I'd hope that the genre has advanced. Lose Your Marbles is definitely addicting, but it's supposed to be. The lure of puzzle games is the almost fanatical devotion they demand. In fact, most good puzzle games contain the same 2 elements: lining up colored objects and dropping objects on opponent. Everything else is just added flavor. The problem with Lose Your Marbles is that it ends up tasting the same as most other puzzlers, and there's just not enough here to keep the more advanced gamers busy. Answer: Its a tie.
Lose Your Marbles is a solid puzzler, one that acts as a nice diversion. With a $20 price tag, I highly recommend it for mortgage company receptionists and poor college students who love to kill time. However, it doesn't offer anything new for the hard-core gamer, though it does wonders for those of us with an annoying overabundance of brain cells...hee, hee. Man make funny joke there...