In Marbles! Balance Challenge, the player is presented initially with three options in the main story mode -- easy , normal and Balance Board. For veterans of the original it is probably best to go for normal mode -- which on its own would have the same number of levels as the original game -- while beginners will probably be better going for easy (there is also a tutorial mode for beginners). Selecting Balance Board gives the player access to 100 specially designed Balance Board levels that are exclusive to the European PAL release. Completing the normal mode will unlock a hard mode that has even more levels -- they are variations on normal mode, but are changed sufficiently to play like new levels.
In the normal mode there is a green gem to find in each level, similar to the original game, but this time there are also stump temple pieces to find. There are a few new ideas added in the way of new obstacles that keep the game fresh for those who completed the original too. In hard mode the green gem is gone but in its place there is the new task of finding the little ant character that is placed in far more devious positions than the normal mode's green gem -- in some cases invisible platforms must be used to reach and rescue him.
Outside of the Balance Board mode, control-wise there are two options for holding the Wii Remote either pointing at the screen or holding it horizontally, which may suit some people better. It is in the area of control that those who played the original will notice a difference. The ball and marbles available at the start move more slowly and are more forgiving, which might frustrate experts, but unlocking the expert balls that are faster and more responsive does not take long, and there is even a Mii-themed figure ball, the attributes of which can be edited to the player's preference.
The first Kororinpa extended gameplay somewhat by having trophy times to go for within each level, with bronze, silver and gold times to go for. This feature is retained in Marbles! Balance Challenge, but there are now Platinum times to go for as well, which appear to be much tougher to attain this time around.
Multiplayer is also improved with support for up to four players in split-screen with selectable collisions between players. Multiplayer is one option within Free Mode that allows for play on any unlocked levels, but there are also some other options to enjoy. Time Trial is a straight race with no gems to pick up (again with trophy times) and there is also Survival that challenges players to complete all ten levels in a selected world with no loss of life. Again, there are trophy times to go for here, plus there is even an "All Survive" portion that challenges the gamer to clear all levels in all worlds with no lives lost -- one for the committed gamer only -- and once more there are trophy times to go for here.
Online is supported this time around, although is some ways it is a bit limited. There is no online Versus Mode sadly, with there instead being ten unique challenges, with best times uploaded to European and World league tables. However, online is used in one other quite significant way. Marbles! Balance Challenge puts the replay value through the roof by providing a level editor. The aforementioned stump temple pieces unlock the different pieces and toolsets that can be used in the editor. It is quite well thought out and there are few limitations to what can be done other than the actual physical size of the puzzle. However, there is an on-screen meter showing how much resource is being used at all times. These levels can be shared online through the Friend Code system and connecting online will also give access to some levels actually designed by Hudson Soft. This really proves to be the icing on the cake for this title.
There are a few niggles, however, albeit minor ones. In the original game when the ball fell off the level it was returned to the start again or at least the last checkpoint from the action could be instantly continued. This time there is a 3-2-1 countdown each time, which can become a bit annoying when constantly falling off during trickier stages. Given the higher difficulty this will ineed be happening quite a bit!
Also, in the multiplayer game, when a race finishes there is only the shortcut option to race again on the same level. In the original moving straight on to the next level was possible, yet this time there is a need to go back out and select the level and player balls again, which slows the pace down a tad. Again, a minor niggle but little things like this can build up and it's a shame given these wrinkles weren't in the original game.
Overall, though, Marbles! Balance Challenge makes the original look like a demo -- the great physics are retained, albeit with more handholding from the off, but this time the player is given loads of content to play with and the level editor extends this to the infinite. Considering all of this, with the 100 Balance Board levels thrown in on top, there is a great full featured game that will give players dozens of hours of playtime. For some reason this seemed to get an even lower-key release than the original, but the effort spent finding it will be well rewarded.