Modern Review: Manic Miner (Xbox 360 Live Arcade)

Modern-Review-Manic-Miner-Xbox-360-Live-ArcadeThe ZX Spectrum classic which defined the cassette tape generation, Manic Miner, has recently been released on Xbox Live Arcade under the independent section. But how does the updated port stack up to the original ZX Spectrum version?

Playing Manic Miner is not something I can honestly say I’ve done in the past, on any computer system, handheld or console. When I say that I’m a beginner at the game, I mean this is the first time I’ve ever laid eyes on the game, despite reading about it heavily in magazines. It’s always come across as a title that every gamer needs to play, but I never understood why; until I decided to branch out from beyond retro titles created for American systems.

Knowing I’m from the United States, this review may be very interesting to the lot of you since most of the site’s viewers are based out of Europe. Games such as Manic Miner simply weren’t available through the United States, as we were mostly focused on arcade and console experiences. It’s refreshing to see a title that we aren’t as familiar with branch out beyond our separated regions, helping us unite our gaming interests worldwide.

Well, I’ve gushed about our differences long enough. Manic Miner on the Xbox Live Indie Arcade was created by Matthew Smith back when I was literally in diapers, that wonderful year called 1983. Hailed as the first Spectrum game with in-game music (which we’ll get to in a bit,) this title strives on delivering a near perfect rendition of the Speccy classic. From pixel filtering, to adding or removing scan lines, as well as a mode that fills the entire screen, everything has been brought back with updated options to allow the community to choose how they prefer to play this classic title. There’s even a “Winter Mode” which changes the colors to opposites, such as dark blues instead of bright reds.

The menu has the standard choices, though this requires a bit of a review. The lack of music in the menus is legitimate, so don’t immediately get to thinking the sound’s gone busted. Settings will allow you to changes visual options as previously discussed. Choosing the Help section will not only give controls, but will explain the story of Manic Miner and lead character, Miner Willy. It tells of Willy’s tale of falling into an accidental goldmine opportunity with an underground store filled with riches. Though Willy faces certain death with various mining robots, spiders, snakes, even poisonous brush, he presses on, discovering a civilization that used machines in a way our current civilization can barely grasp. The story is all right here, along with a listing of all 20 levels in the game. Going into the About area of the menu shows release date and reads like the credits to a game, and the History section reads more like a Wikipedia page than anything.

Going into the Play section will begin the game, but not before choosing between a normal and cheat option. This is incredibly important. Some may be brave and choose the normal option. However, others may feel better about starting with the choice labeled cheat. Sadly, it’s a bit mislabeled, as it plays more like practice than cheating. While your score will continue to climb as you progress, in Cheat mode, you will never get a final high score. Also, unlimited lives are practically mandatory when beginning a romp through this game. Just be careful when exiting the game. There is a continue option, but if you exit during a jump into unknown territory, you could face certain death.

Get ready to die often, and break out the bar of soap, because Manic Miner is going to bring out the worst of your mouth. This title is going to get repetitive, frustrating and downright unfair at times. Willy’s hit box is confusing, as it will sometimes work against and towards success. Sometimes, Willy will be able to move practically right next to an enemy to the point where you can see the colors slightly blending together between the two characters. Other times Willy will die during a jump in areas you thought he could clear. This is all part of the strategy to Manic Miner, despite it bringing out the cursing, it’s as tough as it is fun, and my best recommendation for newbies is to start with the cheat mode. Otherwise, plan on seeing the first level quite a bit.

Manic Miner is as much platform as it is a puzzle. Each level has Willy all kinds of traps that are meant to be instant death blockades. The object of the game is to collect various different rainbow-flashing collectibles while traversing platforms, but what makes it hard is that there’s a certain order to defeat each level. Not hard enough for you? You only have a certain amount of time to do it, since you have an Air Meter that’s constantly dropping. The game is as fun as it is frantic, and is a clear influence to newer indie titles such as I Wanna Be The Guy, and Super Meat Boy. Thanks to tight controls, Willy moves exactly how he should, though sometimes the buttons react when held down too long.

Where the audio is concerned though, this game sounds awful. I’m just going to come out and say it. The music at the intro is a horrible rendition of a classical tune. The main game theme makes you want to tear your ears off, though pressing the Y button will disable the music at anytime, which was a nice touch. There are many who may disagree, but there’s no denying the limitations that the game system had. In fact, it is mentioned in the History section that the music was, theoretically, something that the hardware couldn’t perform while running the main game. However, due to the stellar programming skills, songs were able to be looped during the game without a hiccup in gameplay.

Manic Miner (Gameplay Video)

Conclusion

Manic Miner on the Xbox 360 Indie Arcade is mostly a history lesson for newer gamers, and a trip down memory lane for gamers of the golden age. It also helps bridge the gaming gap between the continents, something that many companies have been trying to strive towards for many years. It’s great that you can download this title without having to hunt down a ZX Spectrum, though for 240 points, it really matters on taste. If you’re looking for a classic title that will make you feel like you’re digging to hell and back, download Manic Miner: I think you’ll be rewarded handsomely.

Link: Manic Miner on Xbox.com


Last Updated ( 09 July 2012 )  

Michael "Miketendo" Levy

Raised on an NES, Saturday AM cartoons and sugary cereal, Michael Levy was your average 80's kid growing up. Despite having odd obsessions with bears, peanut butter, zombies and Tifa Lockhart, 'Miketendo' is also the creator of the YouTube review series: D.Y.H.P.T.G?! (Dude, You Haven't Played This Game?!)

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