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Marble Madness - October 11, '99 by Dorsola
Game:Marble MadnessCompany:Atari
Type:PuzzlePlayers:1/2

I love Atari games. :) I think there were only a couple of games that Atari made that I didn't like. Marble Madness is no exception to this rule: Great music, interesting graphics, and excellent gameplay. You'll probably be seeing me say this kind of thing a lot about their earlier works.
In this puzzle game, you control a marble. Two players can play this game at once, so then you have TWO marbles on the same playing field! The marble rolls through a series of mazes that increase in complexity and difficulty as you go along. Along the way, you'll meet all sorts of adversaries: Marble munchers, acid puddles, the "Renegade Marble" (a black marble that attempts to ram you off-course), and a variety of other miscellaneous traps and hazards. Simply put: You must make it to the goal at the end of the level before time runs out.
At the start of each level, you're given a certain amount of time. After the first (introductory) level, the amount of time you have remaining when you finish gets put toward your time for the next race - the faster you finish, the easier the next round will be. At first, it seems they're giving you a ton of time, but the time goes by quickly! And with all the things you have to deal with, it's easy to lose at this game and have to start over from the beginning.
The original machine used a large trackball as its control. This is the only way I ever saw these machines - indeed, the only way the game could realistically be played in the arcade. Emulation in MAME is pretty much perfect, minus a couple of minor sound-effect glitches, but the controls don't translate QUITE as well to the mouse as one might expect. In order to move the marble, you often needed to spin the trackball quite fast. This translates to picking up and moving your mouse repeatedly, which can both be a pain in the butt and cause you to lose that fine edge of control that you sometimes need to make it through the game. To assist you, MAME allows you to double your sensitivity by holding down the left mouse button.
Sound: The music is not by any means Atari's best work, but it is still quite good, and it works very nicely in the background of each level - a different theme for each level, appropriately tuned for the kind of level it is. The only sound effects you'll usually hear are various events that occur - most of which are pretty simple and stay nicely below the "I'm an annoying sound-effect" level.
Graphics: Take a look at the screenshots included with my review. The graphics were absolutely awesome for a 1984 machine! You're given an isometric view of the level, which scrolls vertically as you move around. While simple in concept, the variations in the pre-rendered landscapes provide much for the eye, and an excellent proving ground for Atari's physics programmers. As you'll find, the marble is affected by gravity, rolling down ramps and sliding on slippery surfaces. One of my favorite things to do when I feel like cheating is to use the "Infinite Time" cheat and get my marble rolling around in the ice-pit at the bottom of Level 2 - once had it in there for over 5 minutes before it finally found its way out over the edge. :) Ultimate proof that these guys had their physics simulations down really nicely.
Unfortunately, they only made 6 levels for this game. And even more unfortunately, the levels are exactly the same every time through, so once you've figured out how to beat the game, there's not a whole lot left to conquer. I'm not aware of any easter-eggs, bonus levels, alternate paths, etc... so really the point of the game would then be to see who could solve the puzzles fast enough. This diminishes the game's replay value a bit.
As for performance: Another perfect 10 from me. I never once experienced any slowdowns in the original hardware, and back when my system was a bit slower, this game still performed quite nicely in MAME. Final word: Grab it and play it. You'll like it. :)
Graphics
10
9
Sound
Play Control
7
8
Challenge
Replay Value
6
10
Performance

Screen Shots

Screen Shot 1
Screen Shot 2
Screen Shot 3
1999 EmuViews