You know I'm pretty sure that Noentiendo, the original authors of this game, must have been dying to name it Manic Mario. That name would far more accurately convey what they were trying to do and, considering that we have a moustachioed plumber featuring heavily throughout, I'm not even sure what "more" they would have had to fear by naming it thus...
As it is, they're gone for Manic Pietro, a name that you'll only associate with Mario if you've played the earlier Pietro Bros title released by Matra last year. I was decidedly lukewarm to Pietro Bros because of its inferiority to the original Mario Bros... if you just rehash the exact same game, one wonders what the point of it is. However, Manic Pietro is a bit of a new idea, taking the gameplay of Manic Miner (Yes, that game that's already been fan-modded more times than I've had hot dinners!) and crossbreeding it with Mario's adventures. Mario, you may recall, appeared in Donkey Kong, its sequel and as a minor character in countless other Nintendo games over the years.
Well, you've got them all here in platform gaming form and, even though there's not an awful lot to it, it's hard not to like it. You get to play all those familiar arcade games in the style of Jet Set Willy and all with some pretty spiffy cutscenes and intros plus a heap of bouncy background tunes. The screens are quite beautifully themed, and the Nirvana+ engine is employed to completely eliminate colour clash. Even if you've somehow never experienced any of Mario's early adventures and weren't born in the late Seventies (like some of us), there's game enough here to challenge you. The screens are by no means easy.
Manic Pietro does remind me more of a console game than a Speccy one which is high praise indeed. This is a game into which the team has put a lot of work and, contrary to some of Matra's more recent physical tape releases, it really deserves to sell well. It's 128K only, complete in one load and employs a password system, meaning you don't have to tear your hair out in frustration when you get sent all the way back to level one.
In order not to spoil the surprise, I won't say any more about the themed levels themselves but they will definitely tickle your nostalgia buds. As for control and collision detection, it's all pretty much spot-on, with sprite sizes identical to the original Manic Miner. It's also just as addictive as the original... the simple left, right and jump controls make for a game you can really just pick up and play, learning how to beat each screen in turn. I suppose the only real complaint against it would be "Oh, not another Manic Miner mod!" but when the mod is as good as this one is, and Manic Miner is such a great game anyway, will anyone really be complaining?