Many of you will be familiar with 'Marble Madness': there appears to have been a number of iterations of this game, across several different consoles and handhelds, such as the Sega Game Gear (and it has even been on the PC). But never before has it been seen on the Atari Lynx! Well, thanks to Matthias Domin, we have a free playable ROM available on the Atari Gamer website interface (and as a download). And I can definitely say, it is well worth your time checking it out, either to play on the PC or to download for your own Lynx handheld. Let's have a ball with this review! (groan)
It's story time. You are a marble. You want to roll toward four flags. Those flags are at the end of dastardly, hilled courses full of ramps, pits and steep drops. One fall, and you start back at the beginning (or a requisite save point in the level). It's tough being a marble, but someone has gotta do it, and you have to do it throughout 7 distinct and colourful levels of fun and tense action. Let's roll!
The first thing you'll notice in 'Marble Madness' is how authentic this game looks to the original. I mean, this is a really good job of creating an authentic looking port. The lights, the shadows, the cute little foes (slinkies) are really, really nice. The screen scrolls nicely as you roll your ball from one side to another, often navigating tricky paths and even (gasp) fans that will blow your ball right off the edge! Thankfully, everything is bright and pleasing to the eye. IT's actually a fantastic "all ages" kind of game, where even kids will get into the visuals of the game.
And you'll be concentrating on the in-game visuals a lot, because… there is no sound. Admittedly, this is not such a bad thing. After all, the intense concentration this game takes is well worth the peace and quiet! However, there is no doubting that a nice soundtrack (preferably digitized) would have really set this game apart from the crowd. As far as I am aware, there aren't any current plans to add to this game, but if this should ever occur, I would love to see some music tracks in the background, and maybe some sound effects as the marble hits a wall - "bink!"
Control-wise, things are going to take a little bit of time to get used to. The game is in an isometric format, which means that you will need to remember carefully which part of the direction pad will take you to specific directions. There is no "jump" or special movements to remember, which keeps things nice and simple. It's just you and the marble. The physics are really well done, however, so you will need to think about how to 'tap' the directional pad, or hold it down, at the right time. This is because the differing ramps and bends can take your ball to unexpected directions! It really is a lot of fun finding out what is going to happen next.
As far as playability and challenge stakes go, I must say that 'Marble Madness' really is short and sweet; you desperately want it to go on! There are only seven levels, which means you can finish the game in a couple of minutes. But you'll have a ball in that brief time (literally). The only real challenge comes from getting the fastest time possible, and then comparing your score with other players. But there's sadly no progress saving mechanism here, so it's not possible to see what score you got last time. The original game was a race against the clock with six levels, so getting an extra level actually seems a nice bonus here. But 50+ levels would be epic!
All up, I must say I that left the Lynx interface feeling so impressed by 'Marble Madness'. It is a completely unique experience on the Lynx, and it is a LOT of fun. At this point, it seems fair to give this game an "8" overall, due to a lack of music and shortness of the adventure. But if this game had more levels, some nice soundtracks, and a way of saving your best scores… I tell you what… I think it would EASILY hit the "9" score for me, and be right up there with new classics like 'Zaku'. Yes, EASILY… it's an absolute cracker. In my mind, 'Marble Madness' is a relentlessly enjoyable ROM download that you must try. Really talented work and a recommended play: great stuff!Score Card
This review was submitted by Jon Mc from JMac Productions