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  • Marble Madness [EA, 1986]

    Posted on March 2nd, 2010 keving 1 comment

    Marble Madness, Mark Cerny’s first game-industry credit, is a game near and dear to my heart. People still link to the archived Video-fenky page where I described in detail how to beat the secret stage in the Commodore 64 version. The world it portrays is remarkably well-defined, especially for its time — clean, calculated, wonderful, and merciless. I’d like to think its visual style still influences modern stuff like Mirror’s Edge to this day, but ah, wishful thinking will only get me so far in our modern, shiny, Hollywood-ized game industry, won’t it?

    The Amiga version, coded by Larry Reed (who may or may not be the Larry Reed who codes for Crystal Dynamics nowadays), is worth special note. It was the Amiga’s “killer app” for much of the system’s early life in the US, the one title that stood out as massively superior to any other home gaming experience. Even though the Amiga debuted at $1295 (compared to $300-ish for a full C64 hardware set at the time) and Commodore attempted to position it as a professional/business computer, they still used media of the Marble Madness port in much of their advertising. As a kid growing up in the northeastern US, I remember playing only two Amiga games: this one, and Turrican, both of which blew my NES-addled mind.

    I never really followed the Amiga the way I should’ve, and I’m in the midst of teaching myself the ins and outs of its game library, a process that I’m sure will happily occupy my free time for eons to come. Along the way, I came across the above YouTube video, demonstrating a pretty astonishing annotated speedrun of the Amiga Marble Madness. The non-TAS-enhanced player winds up with a final score totaling over 200,000 points, which is about 2.5 times what an average player manages in a complete runthrough. Seeing the player wrangle his trackball in person must be a thing of technical beauty, like a master seamstress at the loom or a mile-long line of Toyota assembly robots churning out Camrys. I wish I was there.

    The review on the right is from an autumn 1986 issue of Amazing Computing magazine. Click the cut to view another look, this one from the March/April 1987 edition of Amiga World — one of my favorite reviews ever for the sheer looneyness lurking between the lines.

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