If you've ever had the uncontrollable urge to jump over a penguin while it's humming "Hall of the Mountain King" then this is definitely the game for you.
The idea is to manoeuvre Miner Willy through the various caverns of a long-forgotten mineshaft near Surbiton, collecting all the keys in each cave before being able to move on to the next, and eventually up to the surface and untold riches. It's a game for one player with keyboard control, or joystick.
The game opens with simply the best title screen I've ever seen, with the waving palm trees of sultry Surbiton behind a piano keyboard whose keys are moving up and down to the tune, more or less, of "The Skater's Waltz".
Pressing ENTER starts the game, but if you don't you're given a chance to see the assorted caverns you'll be travelling through, and if you're anything like me this is the only way you'll get to see them.
The first in the proper game is the Central Cavern, and while every one is different, the general idea is that Willy goes walkabout, jumping over obstacles and slowly climbing up the platforms that lead to the top of the screen, grabbing the keys he needs as he goes. When the last key is taken, the portal leading into the next cave will start flashing and willy must make his way back to that.
The game requires a lot of thought, practice and timing to get through each screen, especially as they are all being patrolled by robots, ducks and a dozen other creatures - which is where an ability to leap over a penguin comes in handy.
Complications also arise with the platforms, some of which crumble under you as you pass, meaning that you only get one chance to jump from them to the next level. Others are conveyor belts, and once on those you can't change direction, so you have to know well in advance exactly where you're going to jump next. Coming down is even more hazardous than going up.
The graphics and sound are both superb, and if the constant playing of "Hall of the Mountain King" starts to annoy you the writer has thoughtfully provided an on-off switch in the program.
Manic Miner is original and amusing as well as hard to master, and I haven't enjoyed a game so much since I first encountered Donkey Kong.