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Added: 23 Mar 2013
"A brilliant retro platformer."
Manic miner was originally released in 1983. I was born much later and so was unable to play the game till long after it was released but this game ranks well above many of the titles released after it and truly is one of the pioneers of the platform genre.
The story is an interesting one that is certainly imaginative. Miner Willy is wondering around one day when he discovers an ancient mine shaft. Like all heroes he decides to head down it and surprise surprise it leads to an ancient lost civilization. The civilization had used technology far surpassing ours to create robots to dig deep into the earth's core to obtain minerals. However the civilizations was destroyed by war but the robots continued working and so have generated large stockpiles of minerals which Willy hopes will create his fortune.
While in comparison to today's standard the graphics may look poor to the ZC spectrum these graphics were fantastic. It offered solid animation which was very rare on its spectrum compatriots. The jerky grainy animations of some other titles were an unfortunate turn off to some great games but this is not the case with Manic Miner.
The game also contains many lush vibrant colours. Every level has great variance in colours and shapes and so you will never get bored by two consecutive levels that look very much the same like some of Manic Miners predecessors. Every level or room as described in game has its own theme for example one is a freezer like room and another n abandoned uranium factory. Matthew Smith's bizarre thoughts can be seen thought this variety and makes completing each room even more enjoyable to see which new surprise awaits you.
As with the graphics the sound may sound terrible in comparison to the stirring classic or the rush from a close range rocket fire but Manic Miner caused many of the biggest innovations in this area of gaming.
Manic Miner was the first game ever to include in game music. This is provided by the song “In the hall of the mountain king”. Today we take in game music for granted and forget how brilliant it is in contributing to the atmosphere. The game also featured sound effects such as when Willy jumps which again were innovations at the time we now take for granted.
Manic Miner features what has now become standard platforming fare but at the time was a new concept. Throughout each level there are varies keys which vary in design as per the theme of the level. The aim of each level is to collect these keys and then head to the exit.
This was not however as simple as it sounds. There are a variety of enemies with the aim of preventing this from happening including toilets, ostriches and seals. The enemies while not as complex as modern day adversaries as they would only travel in straight lines across pre determined routes still proved a challenge. What proves harder however was the level itself. Some of the ground would collapse if you spent too long on it dropping you to your death or on a less complex level other obstacles like stalactites would produce the challenge providing many tricky jumping challenges.
The game only uses three keys and it is in this simple design that the game really charms. The game has no tricky control layouts, no unresponsive buttons, you simply press jump to jump , left and right to move and if you feel daring running jumps can be attempted.
Manic Miner's gameplay is perfectly complimented by a fantastic lifespan. When Matthew Smith pitched this game he said he would have 16 levels well above what the produces felt was possible (8). Matthew surpassed even his expectations with 20 levels all different, colourful and memorable. The game has no difficulty settings simple a staggered difficulty with levels getting harder as you progress through the game. The levels are well designed in that they are at just the right difficulty to be frustrating but at the same time not frustrating. Every level gives you a sense of achievement more so with the later levels. Manic Miner brought us another two innovations to deal with lifespan. It was one of the first games to contain a cheat menu which allowed you to modify the game. The game also introduced the idea of being rewarded for completing it. If Manic Miner was completed without cheats then a secret code was unlocked that the produces claimed would win you a prize if you were the first person to send it in although this rumour has never been proved.
In conclusion Manic Miner is a fantastic game. While it may look dated by today's standards which it certainly is in terms of graphics, sound and gameplay you must remember that for its time it was well ahead of its fellow Spectrum games and produced many innovations that would become requirements for future games.
This game is a must play for all game fans be you retro or not. There are many remakes available but to truly appreciate this game it is best played on its original console. However as this is now difficult I would recommend looking at one of the many online copies of the original game as only then will you appreciate the game. So the next time you are playing a game and you hear an atmospheric piece of music, a fantastic sound effect or you finally complete a game to unlock that much wanted unlockable then remember Miner Willy and his exploits in the cave which gave birth to these ideals which we now take for granted.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 07/16/06
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