Sunday, September 20, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! Marble Madness

Retro Game of the Day! Marble Madness

Marble Madness by Atari, created by Mark Cerny in 1984. I want to call this guy an uber-nerd (endearingly) as he was 18 years old when he made this game. 18!! What the heck kind of innovation have YOU accomplished when you were eighteen? The guy went to work on countless big and notable titles, and this one certainly remains one of his most memorable.

Having never actually played the arcade version (maybe for a moment!) we enjoyed the NES conversion (1989 release) in our household. The original machine used a trackball controller, and the ports made use of the ol' control pad instead - it was a little wonky, but worked well enough. Rare handled the NES conversion, applying the usual "Rare NES filter" as they did to all things they touched, and it certainly felt like "their style of game" as a result-

Here's the story - you control a little marble. race from the screen's top to the goal ribbon at the bottom before time runs out. You get unlimited lives, but the timer is harsh and you must play the game pretty well (even early on) to be able to see ANYthing. The game is quite short, but the challenge isn't easy! Your marble can fall off the world, or get destroyed, eaten, melted, et cetera. Whatever, so long as you make it in time, then no matter..

The courses are all very deviously designed, lots of traps and interesting contraptions attempting to halt and hinder the player's progress. Still, each level was colorful and attractive (the isometric angle games were always an interesting abstract-standout from the usual top-down or side-scroll fare of most other titles) enough to keep you playing. One of my favorites was the "backwards level" where they reversed all the rules (going down an incline slows your speed, etc). I remember making it all the way to the final phase of the last level and running out of time, each time I tried (my friend actually nailed it one day, and called me to let me know he beat me!)
Marble Madness is a wonderful game, timeless really, which has influenced an entire generation of titles and still is quite enjoyable to play. I'd love to track down the arcade machine someday and play it "as it was meant to be played!"


  1. What a game! Marble Madness was good on all formats, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64...

    A timeless classic. Never actually played the NES version though - it does look good in your review.

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