Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
So, you like the occasional game of marbles eh? Well, perhaps you should try out Marble Madness for the ultimate in small sphere-related activities!
This isometric 3D game puts you in control of what must be the toughest marble of all time, and it's your job to guide the orb-like item around the many hazards that make up the Marble Madness course. Your objective is simply to reach the end of the stage before your time limit expires. Rather helpfully, the end of the course is marked GOAL! So, you know what to look out for. Any remaining seconds you have are added on to the time limit of the next level, so storing up time on the easy levels is a good tactic.
There are six levels of arcade action in Marble Madness, packed with strange meanies, cunning traps and hazardous landscapes. Do you reckon you can handle the action?
As you travel through the game you come across many weird hazards including a rampant wave machine, a dangerous whirlpool and lethal, almost unpredictable vacuum cleaners! Not surprisingly, all of your sphere-controlling cunning is required to progress past these hazards.
Marble Madness must be one of the most converted coin-ops of all time! Versions of this classic Atari coin-op are available for the Nintendo (programmed by Rare for MB Games), the Megadrive (courtesy of Electronic Arts) and the Gameboy (produced by Mindscape). Just about every version is a spot-on adaptation of the coin-op. Who knows? Perhaps Virgin will release Marble Madness on the Game Gear too.
Marble Madness must have the strangest assortment of baddies yet found in a video game. Look out for evil black marbles, pools of living acid, hammers and suction-cap creatures that eat you whole! Most of these creatures should be avoided at all costs or you die! Some creatures, like the black marbles can be ricocheted off the edge of the landscape and into oblivion!
Level one has safety rails!
Excitement from level two.
Oh no! Game over!
Marble Madness has been converted to most other consoles and just about every version has been completely brilliant. While this version is graphically superb, the control method ruins the game. The control system is just not intuitive enough - one tiny press of the D-pad sends your marble flying across the playing area. The game is also very easy - even with the difficult controls. I saw most of the levels in my first setting, and it doesn't take a games playing genius to finish the game very quickly. Another thing I noted was that game was quite a lot slower than the original. The easiness of the game is a problem on most of the other versions too, but at least they were fast and enjoyable to play. Unfortunately, Master System Marble Madness
Graphically this is as close to the arcade original as you could hope. Sadly, though, the gameplay doesn't quite live up to the same standards. The control method is rather fiddly and lacks the "feel" that made the coin-op original and other console conversions such a joy to play. The game also lacks challenge - it’s just too easy to go all the way through the game. I still went back to it to try and notch up near perfect scores, but didn't enjoy it as much as I had done with other versions. Marble Madness fiends are bound to enjoy what's on offer, but at the end of the day you're left feeling that just a little bit more polishing in the gameplay department would have resulted in this being a perfect conversion, rather than just a good one.