If you’ve ever wanted to roll a giant marble across cities of the future. now’s your chance. Icon Games’ ‘Vertigo’ is ready to get its Xorb on, PSP-style.

Some reviews simply write themselves. Simply put: ‘Vertigo’ is a futurized version of legacy title ‘Marble Madness,’ ported from a 2009 Wii offering of the same name. The only catch is, Marble Madness – now over 25 years old – is better than Vertigo.

It’s not that I didn’t want to grow a fondness for Vertigo. The ‘rolling crap through peculiar terrain’ genre is one I’m surprisingly keen on…even more so in portable iterations. There’s a simultaneous…and admittedly odd…cutesy plus mathematical skill combination inherent in the genre, one that seems to work both sides of the brain simultaneously.

Thus, success on this genre requires subtle mastery of two key elements: a sharp physics engine to enable realistic feel (rolling object, ramps, collision detection), likewise an engaging environment capable of keeping one’s interest when navigating said rolling object.

Problem is, Vertigo fails on both accounts. The premise of Vertigo is that a ‘Xorb’ – a futuristic racing ball/vehicle of the future – scoots its way across various, challenging terrain, in search of best track time, power-ups, and environmental exploration. The thing is, Xorb’s control like crap, far too loose in feel with an over-reliance on braking (ground and air). Paired with awful landing physics (almost rubber like) and crappy level design (ramps to nowhere, little to no path demarcation), piloting a Xorb resembles navigating a cart through a very busy grocery store. Stop…go, go, go gently….stop, turn, tap, tap, tap. Even real marbles shouldn’t be subject do this steering monotony.

Abhorrent, non-intuitive routes, ones that seemingly lobby for your demise via impossibly confounding ramp placement and angles, hamper aforementioned levels. Perhaps the greatest culprit in this arena lies in Vertigo’s outdated, bland graphics, ones appropriate for a PSP tech demo…not a releasable title… even a $10 one. The same caveat applies for the game’s generic music. Syntho-yawn.

Dear developers: Why the hell would I want to land on a surface, only to find no where to go from there and/or clue as to where the heck I am? And guys: please include a in-game manual, thanks! I have no clue what the hell any of the powerups and/or level markers means. Finally, would some intelligent, non-static level progression, on-screen icons have killed ya’?

Despite such confounding questions, I played on. Arcade, Career, Time Trial and even Xorb Bowling all emerged as equal duds. I’m not sure how one can muddy bowling via a rolling object…but Vertigo does a smashing job in doing so. Wonky ramp/pin physics, bounces to nowhere and – my personal favorite – impossibly difficult to navigate ramp series before you even get to the damn alley. (Why are this many ramps on the friggin’ moon?!) Yes, you can tune your Xorb via ‘Manna’ obtained via solid time trial scores. Nevertheless, upgrades galore…and my Xorb still resembled a supermarket experience. Albeit one only slightly better at starting/stopping.

I’d be willing to overlook all of Vertigo’s flaws if it was, well, fun in some aspect. ANY aspect. After my Xorb careened off a random ramp for the umpteenth time, I was ready to throw my PSP into the wall. Somehow, Marble Madness devolved into frustrating, with washed out graphics, no character, and zero incentive to continue play.

Vertigo is a Marble Madness attempt gone horribly awry. Uninspired graphics, poor physics, and confounding level design combine for a disappointing download experience. Even the bottom end of the ‘Monkey Ball’ series is a better go.

  • Inexpensive
  • Portable Marble Madness, well…sorta’
  • I’m stretching here
  • Terrible physics
  • Uninspired graphics, sound
  • May inspire PSP use as a projectile
Quote: "Vertigo is a Marble Madness attempt gone horribly awry."
Reviewed by Paul Stuart | 04.05.11


Icon Games
Icon Games


US Released
March 2011



Players 1