Marble Madness (Ariolasoft) Review | Zzap - Everygamegoing


Marble Madness
By Electronic Arts
Commodore 64

Published in Zzap #20

Marble Madness

Being a marble isn't much fun, especially when you're trapped in a surreal world where the laws of physics don't behave as they should. So, to pass the time, you decide to enter the yearly competition held at the local racecourse. There are six courses, all of which are raced against the clock, either alone or with another marble if you so desire.

The aim of the race is simple: get from the start to the finishing post before the time limit expires. Each course is suspended in space and comprises of small plateaus and areas of land connected by twisting narrow ramps and bridges. Racing over the land is straightforward enough, but the narrow ramps and bridges can prove hazardous - one false move and you will fall over the edge into the void. If this happens, your marble is placed back onto the land and time is lost.

Three breeds of creature live on the racecourses and all have an intense disliking for the intrepid marble racers. Black marbles are twisted and evil outcasts of the marble society who just love to bump racers into the void. Marble Munchers leap onto and devour any marble stupid enough to stray near, resulting in a loss of time. Acid pools lack any senses and drift over the landscape in the hope that a marble will be careless enough to drift into it. Should this happen, the marble is dissolved and digested by the pool, resulting in the loss of more time.

Along with the living creatures, there are many mechanical hazards which must be negotiated. The first contraption you encounter is the mechanical wave machine. This pumps out wave after wave of metallic sludge upon which you must surf if you are to reach the finishing line. Giant hoovers are another big problem, rising up from underneath a particularly thin section of the track in an attempt to suck you off. A catapult has to be used to negotiate a huge chasm, and on later levels mechanical bridges make the going very hazardous.

Each racecourse features a different characteristic. Level four requires some rather hefty jumps, and level five has reverse gravity. If you manage to reach the finishing post within the allotted time, then the remaining seconds are converted to bonus points and you progress onto the next level. At the beginning of the next race, extra seconds are added to your total and you start all over again.


In the continuing saga of poorly executed conversions comes this heap of something nasty and smelly. This really is a poor product which fails to impress or excite me in the slightest. The programmers have tried very hard to get everything into this conversion, but it is lacking the consistency of the arcade version.

If you liked the arcade version then avoid this at all costs, it'll give you nightmares.


What a massive disappointment! Perhaps I was expecting too much, but what we have here is a second-rate conversion which lacks the playability of its arcade parent. The graphics and layout of the screens are very faithful to the original, but that's about it.

Playabillty wise it's lacking on many counts. For a start, the scrolling has problems in keeping up with the marble, and on level four the ball constantly rolls off the bottom of the screen. While the scrolling tries to catch up, you hear your marble dropping off the landscape!

Frustrating, to say the least.

Another big niggle is that the marble sometimes drops off the road when it's nowhere near the edge, resulting in more frustration. Even more frustration is encountered when you have to wait for each level to load - it takes ages!

As a game on its own, Marble Madness is not much fun. It only has six levels and we very nearly completed them after about half an hour's play! The music ranges from passable to downright abysmal, the tunes on levels three and four being the worst. The only good thing going for this game is the two player option, and even that slows the game down horrendously at times!

If you really like the arcade game and are interested in this conversion, I suggest you look at it before buying. I wouldn't recommend it.


Electronic Arts have managed to cram in nearly all the features of the original arcade game but they haven't been executed very well. The backdrops are good and the sprites bear a passing resemblance to those seen on the arcade game. However, the scrolling is s-l-o-w and most of the time the screen has severe problems in keeping up with the marble. Fun, fun, fun - and very frustrating.

All the tunes are there too, it's just that the notes aren't quite sure when they should play. The result is abysmal. Gyroscope wasn't any better, but at least it was one load. Maybe a decent conversion of Marble Madness isn't possible within the limitations of the C64 - if this is the case then Electronic Arts shouldn't have bothered.


Presentation 39%
Cute cheat mode, but otherwise the program is lacking gloss. Abysmal loading system - more time is spent loading than playing.

Graphics 70%
Decent backdrops, reasonable scrolling, mediocre sprites.

Sound 39%
Awful tunes and few spot FX.

Hookability 76%
Easy enough to play, and initially quite fun.

Lastability 38%
Six tedious levels to complete - seven if you include the water level.

Value For Money 33%
Overpriced for what it offers.

Overall 40%
A very disappointing, second rate conversion.