ZX Computing

Marble Madness Construction Set
By Melbourne House
Spectrum 48K

Published in ZX Computing #34

Melbourne House release a 'customise a coin-op classic' package

Marble Madness Construction Set

Marble Madness, the coin-op game, was an original that lie all good ideas has spawned numerous clone games in the same vein. Gyroscope (Melbourne House) and Spindizzy (Electric Dreams) have already appeared and the official Marble Madness game was released on the C64. But what of the Spectrum?

Implementation problems mean that a pure conversion is out of the question. So if you are going to have to change the game a bit, why not change it a lot? The Melbourne House conversion, whilst retaining all of the spirit and playability of the original game, also has a lot of extras (and very few omissions). So much extra has been crammed in that you soon forget about the graphical differences with the original.

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. In the Melbourne House variant of the game, some of these hindrances are missing - but it doesn't seem to help you any. Also, the level system is worked out rather differently. Each level is composed of a static screen. Instead of smoothly scrolling a long level up, the screen stays stationary and shifts up when you get to the bottom. After eleven of these screens, you go back to the beginning and start again, but taking your time bonus with you.

Marble Madness Construction Kit

The timing system works in a similar way to the original; you start with a certain time limit in which to get to the bottom of the first screen. If you get to the bottom of the screen before time then your remaining amount gets added to your time for the next screen.

Scoring is assessed on how much time you have left on your clock when you reach the bottom of th screen, and any bonuses that you have picked up on your trip down. Otherwise, the game is very similar to Marble Madness in layout and all the fine detail, like the broken ball being brushed up, is all there.

The construction part of the games lets you edit the screens as much as memory will allow. The editing system is remarkably simple and fully icon-driven with a two-thirds scale representation of the screen that you are working on with the rest of the screen taken up with the icons and chunks of isometric building blocks to manipulate. So you can move your joystick around and edit any screens that you want, to make them harder (!), easier, or just different. You can also test screens, and save/load the entire game to tape.

This selection of the program makes the whole game that much more interesting. Long after Commodore 64 owners will have completed the original game, Spectrum owners will be designing better and more fiendish screens for one another. The best implementation that could have been made of this well thought out game.