Computer Gamer

Marble Madness
By Melbourne House
Spectrum 48K

Published in Computer Gamer #21

Mike Roberts puts on his strait-jacket and waits for madness to set in

Marble Madness

Marble Madness was almost unique in the coin-op games world as it was basically a completely new idea and concept. In a world of shoot-'em-ups and thousands of identical karate games that get more boring by the minute. A problem solving/skill/competitive/description-defying game like this was a breath of fresh air. I remember that when I first saw it a couple of years ago when Gamer first burst onto the newsagents' shelves and I started writing 'Coin-Op Connection'. I played the game in a trade showroom for eight hours solid, and couldn't write up the article because my wrist was put out for a week.

Then we had Gyroscope, a blatant Marble Madness copy (taken off the shelves after a few weeks due to pressure from Atari and bugs in the software) that somehow just didn't measure up to the original. Spindizzy pinched the concept but in a more ladders and ramps type of game, that was admired for different reasons. So now we have the original game, unadulterated, and true to the coin-op version. Written by Electronic Arts and released by Ariolasoft on the Amiga and Commodore. I shall not bother with the Amiga version, as most people reading this will be more interested in the Commodore version anyway.

The game (for the moment) is only available on disk and has to load in each of the five levels every time you progress from one level to the next.

Marble Madness

The game itsel and the first two levels are stored on side one and the next three levels are on side two. The reason for all this disk-swapping is simple - each level is very big and takes up an awful lot of graphics memory.

Is it worth it? Yes, the graphics are amongst the best that I have seen in a long time. They capture the Arcade game perfectly. What took a 68010 processor with half a megabyte of memory in the arcades can now be yours on a £200 micro.

The game is based on rolling a marble down an isometric 3D-ish landscape that has holes, slippery areas, barriers, lifts, drains, conveyor belts, vacuum cleaners, slime monsters, enemy marbles, bonus areas, acid, and of course the goal - which is the object of all your efforts. As you can see, there are rather a lot of hinderances in your path the holes and edges are probably the worst as the track that you have to follow is cunningly designed to send you sailing over the edge of a cliff or off an angled walkway.

Marble Madness

The slippery angles (I think that they are panes of glass), barriers make you bounce around, but at least they stop you dying. The lits are sort of hydraulic rams that will either block your way or give you a friendly nudge in the right direction. Drains are good, jump into one and you zip down into the side of a cliff without having to go through all the rigmarole of navigating a safe way down. Conveyor belts are also useful in that they will shift you from one place to another quickly and safely.

It is a bit difficult to get on and off them though, a bit of an acquired taste.

Vacuum cleaners are probably the worst hazard that you will have to come across. These evil devices just appear out of nowhere and suck you out of nowhere and suck you over the edge of wherever you happen to be. Slime monsters are also a pain, but at least they are avoidable. These little pests will jump on you and dissolve you if you are too slow in passing them. Enemy marbles are just that, evil black marbles that try to smash you off the screen. However, if you force them over an edge you score bonus points.

Marble Madness is a compelling game that is fantastically addictive, almost identical to the coin-op version, and with some of the best graphics and sound that I have seen on a Commodore. I thought that it couldn't be done, but looking out of my window I can see a flying pig...!