Switchball originally caught eyeballs as Crazy Ball, at 2006's Independent Games Festival. It's an engaging puzzle game about steering a marble through a series of obstacles, powered by a robust, teeth-clenching physics engine that captures the thrill of nudging a marble around a tight corner and biting your tongue as you pull back from the edge of a ramp. New tools and trickier challenges come at a satisfying pace: The first two sections amount to a tutorial, but around the middle of the game, Switchball ratchets up the difficulty and makes you innovate with the tools at hand. The precise control over the marble's slightest movements feels extremely satisfying, and most of the action depends on nuance—nudging a wooden block into place, rolling over a narrow plank, or even, thanks to a set of power-ups, jumping over a gap or up to a magnet.

Beyond the game: It's unfair to compare every clever little puzzle game to Valve's Portal, or to expect the team to have fleshed out its concept with a caustic script and a meta-story that explains why, say, a bunch of marbles are rolling around on magical platforms in the sky. But as far as the presentation goes, it would've been nice if someone had spruced up the sound effects.

Worth playing for: While the game has a multiplayer mode, the developers lost a chance at creating a community and extending the game's shelf-life by shipping without a level editor.


Frustration sets in when: A game about guiding a ball down narrow routes where the slightest mistake makes you start over is frustrating by design. That's the point.

Final judgment: The game quickly runs out of maps, but for this budget price, it's an eye-pleasing, patience-testing distraction.