I’ve never really had an interest in Marble Madness and although I played the arcade game a few times when I was a kid (at a Great Yarmouth arcade) the only really draw for me back then was the interesting control method of the spinning ball to control the marble on screen. I was offered the NES version along with another game for just a few quid so I couldn’t see the harm. Though to be honest I wasn’t expecting much.
Looks wise it’s a pretty decent game and for a NES port of an arcade cab it still manages to keep the same isometric view with all of the levels I played being ones from the arcade. Once the marble starts to roll it does seem quite weighty when you move it via the pad but it still feels slightly wrong playing without a roller ball. If you hold any direction the ball will roll to follow, the physics adjusting depending on speed/momentum and from the first few levels I found it quite easy to work my way through without falling off the side of the mazes. The goal of each maze is simply to reach the exit without dying too many times! Back in the 80’s Nintendo were always releasing various themed peripherals and I can’t see why an extra traction ball wasn’t released.
I did come across a couple of glitches which I expect were down to the NES being a bit underpowered or possibly even dodgy coding. The ball flickered into the shape of a square when close to enemies and the collision detection is off. This isn’t a problem when it comes to just rolling around the landscapes but when you are dependant on a few close encounters and the game glitches or nudges you off in a direction for being close to but not actually touching an enemy then its an issue. Some of the sections are narrow and require some skill to navigate yet when the game designers chose to plop an enemy in the middle that can push you over the edge without actually touching it spoils the fun.
Despite its faults there’s one thing the game has in spades, fun. The problem with bringing arcade games into the home is that the audience is usually a lot different. People don’t want quick fixes or high scores most of the time and want to be able to spend a couple of hours working their way through titles. Marble Madness still retains that unforgiving difficulty of the arcade and it’s this that I think would have pushed people to keep coming back for more.
Since getting my hands on this I’ve actually plugged the cart in several times and I’m tempted to do the same again today which to me makes it a decent enough game to while away the odd 10 minutes. Maybe arcade ports at home aren’t such a bad idea after all and for a game I wasn’t expecting anything from it’s more than delivered. I’ll add this to the return to play later pile that’s for sure.