Sunday, 6 August 2017

Single Screen Platform Games #16

Manic Miner (1983)
By: Bug-Byte Software Ltd Genre: Platform Players: 1 Difficulty: Medium-Hard
Featured Version: ZX Spectrum First Day Score: 11,800
Also Available For: Amstrad CPC, C64, C16, BBC Micro, Dragon 32, MSX, Oric 1, Memotech MTX, PMD 85, Sam Coupe, Amiga, Game Boy Advance

Okay, time for another Red Parsley embarrassing confession. I am of course highly familiar with Manic Miner, the towering masterpiece of Matthew Smith, and have played it before, but I've never really played it properly on its home turf. I think I even completed one of the other versions but the Speccy original has been sadly neglected by me. Thinking about it now I genuinely have no idea how I missed it in its day, what with the game's already legendary status and all that. Its release came before I joined the ranks of the home computerers but you would still think a game this popular would find its way to me anyway, even a few years later, but no. I don't recall seeing it on sale and I'm pretty sure I never saw magazines going on about it excitedly either. It really is quite strange looking back but the end result was that I, a self-professed Speccy fan, wasn't even aware of one of its most recognised, landmark titles until many years later.

The second stage is actually easier than the first...
Not only that but, to shame myself even further, I must confess that the first version of the game I played was on my Amiga which by then sat alongside my Speccy on my desk. Eeek! Sacrilege I know! I did at least play the original soon after that though, and was finally able to see what my Speccy contemporaries has been bleating about all those years. It's also a game that has been overdue as part of my Single Screen Platform Games feature. And so, here is my long overdue look at the mighty Manic Miner, featuring the exploits of Miner Willy who is, remarkably, a miner. It is therefore fortunate that it was he and not a gangling claustrophobic cowboy who stumbled upon the 'ancient, long forgotten mine-shaft' that he did indeed stumble upon. Unable to contain his excitement, he entered said mine and found evidence of a 'lost civilisation far superior to our own'. A chance for untold riches awaits!

This was the first one to really cause me problems....
And accordingly, these riches form the basis of the gameplay: simply guide Willy (snigger) around each screen and collect every glowy object to unlock the exit to the next. In theory this shouldn't take too long either as there are only 20 stages but, as you may well have known for longer than me, this isn't the easiest game around. The platforms on each stage are meticulously positioned and most treasures are located so you can only collect them in a particular way or at a particular time. Willy's jumping ability isn't too bad, although his landing ability is less impressive - he loses a life if he falls too far, but he has nothing with which to neutralise the evil robots and creatures found pootling backwards and forwards. These include the likes of ducks, toilets, spiders, and telephones, and there are many non-sentient hazards to look out for as well such as spikes and plants.

That pesky Eugene caught me out the first time :(
Suffice to say, each screen, most of which look simple enough at first glance, has become notorious for its unforgiving nature. Most jumps must be pixel-perfect, most treasures must be collected in the correct order, and thanks to the many collapsing platforms, you'll often only get one shot per life! Like the best games before and since though, it also proves very addictive. The graphics are pretty good for their day too - colourful, varied sprites and foregrounds, occasionally colourful backgrounds, and little colour clash, and there's even a bippity rendition of Hall Of the Mountain King that plays throughout! Even all these years later it's very clear why Manic Miner was such a hit, and why it has remained so popular as well. It's not a complex game but is superbly designed and very charming. I still can't understand how I missed it back in the 80's but I know if I hadn't it would rarely have left my tape deck.

RKS Score: 9/10

Gameplay Video: here's a video of the whole game being played by one of the talented fellows at RZX Archives (check out their great channel here). Oh, and don't watch if you want to avoid spoilers!



  1. Played this on just about every platform of machines and I have to say the Oric was the best ;-)

    1. Really? Wow, I've not heard that before but I'll check it out :) What made it better?

    2. Yeah, the Oric version has more/different screens. I've played it on many platforms too but the Spectrum version is the benchmark for me.


  2. There was a Sam Coupe version I think that had either 20 or 40 extra screens too, and they were excellent. Although I may be misremembering a version from a different platform (I had the Coupe version which makes me think I'm correct).

    1. I keep meaning to check that version out at some point actually. I'm not sure I like the colours but the extra stages must be played :)