Marble Madness. A game where you just move a marble
down a slope may not seem that fun. But throw in an
interesting soundtrack, and cool twists and turns and
you might have something. Milton Bradley thought so
when they brought this game to the NES, originally
an arcade game (later translated to the Genesis and now
appearing in a Playstation compilation.)
There are six races, each more difficult than the
last. The object in every level is simple: Get to the
bottom of the level before time runs out. (In the Silly
Race, level 5, you have to get to the TOP of the
level, since everything is backwards.) Finishing a level quick is vital,
as the timer is carried over to the next level (with seconds added, of course.) In the two player games,
the object is to finish before the other one does, and before time
runs out. You can also bump the opposing player around, if you're feeling
particularly nasty. Direct your marble through twists, turns, narrow passages,
jumps, and a variety of pitfalls.
Hold on there, it's not that simple. Each race is
populated by enemies that try and keep you fron
finishing. Some of these include Black Balls (enemy marbles that try to
puch you around and knock you off cliffs), Marble Eaters (worms that try to eat your
marble), Acid Puddles (they dissolve your marble),
Hammers (they try to knock your marble off the track),
and Birds. Even the race itself is against you, full
of bumps, steep slopes, catapults, pits, and so on.
Your marble isn't that tough. A short fall or landing
after being launched will stun it a little, but a
long fall will cause it to break. Every time your
marble breaks, you reappear again, having lost some
time. In the two player match, if one marble falls
behind and gets scrolled of the top of the screen,
it'll catch up with the player ahead (minus 5 seconds.) However,
sometimes a wand appears, giving you an additional 10 seconds.
The graphics are good. The marbles look nice rolling
around, and they have great animations when they get
stunned (a swirl appears) and when they break (they
crumble, and the center comes out). The enemies also
look good, too. The tracks have good use of shadows
and 3D objects. Each level has a hummable song that stays
in your head, but at some points, it can get annoying.
Given that the arcade game used a trackball, it would be difficult
to change the scheme to a gamepad, but they did a fairly good job.
There are two control methods: 45 degrees and 90 degrees. With 90 degrees,
simply press a direction and your marble will move that way. With 45 degrees,
the marble will always move at an angle. It's purely a matter of preference.
Generally the marbles control well, but the controls
can be stubborn sometimes.
After all is said and done, Marble Madness is a good
2-player game, and a decent 1-player game. It's pretty tough however,
as mastering the method of moving the marble takes a bit of time. You may
not make it to the end, but playing against another
player, you'll have a rolling good time.