ZX Spectrum Marble Madness
I tell you what, this retro game takes me back...
Melbourne house had already released the Marble Madness construction kit the previous year, and the full game known as 'the deluxe edition' was released for the ZX Spectrum in May of 1987. Melbourne House kindly included an enhanced version of the construction kit with the game too.
The original arcade game by Atari (released in 1984) had been a huge success with it's unique design, stereo sound and trackball control. It was only a matter of time before it was converted to home machines, and the version for the ZX Spectrum was actually pretty good.
Anyway, in Marble Madness you were basically a heavy metal ball - a marble. Your task in life was to roll around the 3D isometric platform levels of a far distant planet - and basically find your way to the exit.
En-route to your escape you would encounter all manner of villains; fiendish black balls, sweeping brooms, oil slicks and spinning hoops to name but a few.
The game played very nicely on the ZX Spectrum and managed to re-create the 'feel' (gravity and inertia effect) of its arcadian parent, and included all the humps and bumps faithfully from each screen.
The were two main things missing:
The first was the trackball control which did detract slightly from the overall playability. The trackball control had made the arcade game stand out from the crowd with it's novel method of controlling your little ball
The second was the lack of colour on the game screens. The arcade game had been richly soaked in colour but we all know that the humble Sinclair machine just could not handle these sort of graphics in full colour - the moving characters would have been just a little too messy.
Sure enough, Melbourne House sensibly went for the monochromatic look to ensure the playability was kept intact. Once you had played it two or three times you forgot about the lack of colour as the gameplay sucked you in.
Once you got the hang of the controls (simple up, down, left and right) the game really opened up. Playing against the clock, you had to complete each screen before the clock counted down to zero or it was game over.
Colliding with a nasty did not kill you directly - it merely delayed you for a few of those all important seconds.
The game could be completed if you managed to make your way through all of the screens - no mean feat. I never managed it anyway.
Well this was another arcade conversion that had been hotly anticipated. It did not disappoint on release and the conversion did the original justice within the limitations of the ZX Spectrum. Despite the lack of colour the playability was there and each screen was faithful to the original. Due to it's popularity it was a big hit - even though it retailled at a mega £14.95.
The test of time:
Marble Madness is still playable, still frustrating yet still pretty addictive. It was always pretty simple in concept anyay and stands as a classic of the mid 80's era. You could even say that this classic directly influenced modern hits such as Super Monkey Ball which uses a similar inertia effect and gameplay style in certain stages. Here in Spectrum games we reckon you should play Marble Madness again.
Grab it by the balls and give it a go - the gameplay (and ball play) is still there
We recommend getting hold of the real Sinclair hardware but if not then download a ZX Spectrum emulator. Alternatively you could try and play it online.
Please see our other ZX Spectrum retro game reviews - all links are listed in alphabetical order. Cheers guys.
GENRE: Arcade game
RELEASE DATE: May of 1987
RELEASED BY: Melbourne House
PRICE: A whopping £14.95
I used to be good at this, honest! Marble Madness is a classic arcade game...
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