Marble Madness
Box Shot
Marble Madness
Platform: NES
Publisher: Milton Bradley
Designer: Milton Bradley
Genre: A genre of its own
Players: 2 (Simultaneous)
Published Date 1991
Reviewed by: Adam King

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.