original Bug-byte cassette inlay
|Publisher(s)||Bug-Byte (1983), |
Software Projects (1983)
|Platform(s)||ZX Spectrum (original)|
Amiga, Amstrad CPC, BBC Micro, Commodore 16, C64, Dragon 32/64, Game Boy Advance, Mobile, MSX, Oric 1, SAM Coupé, Tatung Einstein, MTX, PMD 85, Xbox 360
Manic Miner is a platform video game originally written for the ZX Spectrum by Matthew Smith and released by Bug-Byte in 1983 (later re-released by Software Projects). It is the first game in the Miner Willy series and among the early titles in the platform game genre. The game itself was inspired by the Atari 8-bit family game Miner 2049er. It has since been ported to numerous home computers, video game consoles and mobile phones.
At the time, its stand-out features included in-game music and sound effects, high replay value, and colourful graphics, which were well designed for the graphical limitations of the ZX Spectrum. The Spectrum's video display allowed the background and foreground colours to be exchanged automatically without software attention and the "animated" load screen appears to swap the words Manic and Miner through manipulation of this feature.
On the Spectrum this was the first game with in-game music, the playing of which required constant CPU attention and was thought impossible. It was achieved by constantly alternating CPU time between the music and the game. This results in the music's stuttery rhythm. The in-game music is In the Hall of the Mountain King from Edvard Grieg's music to Henrik Ibsen's play Peer Gynt. The music that plays during the title screen is an arrangement of The Blue Danube.
In each of the twenty caverns, each one screen in size, are several flashing objects, which the player must collect before Willy's oxygen supply runs out. Once the player has collected the objects in one cavern, they must then go to the now-flashing portal, which will take them to the next cavern. The player must avoid enemies, listed in the cassette inlay as "...Poisonous Pansies, Spiders, Slime, and worst of all, Manic Mining Robots...", which move along predefined paths at constant speeds. Willy can also be killed by falling too far, so players must time the precision of jumps and other movements to prevent such falls or collisions with the enemies.
Extra lives are gained every 10,000 points, and the game ends when the player either has no lives left, or completes all twenty caverns and escapes to the open air. Above the final portal is a garden. To the right is a house with a white picket fence and red car parked in front. To the left is a slope leading to backyard with a pond and tree; a white animal, resembling a cat or mouse, watches the sun set behind the pond. Upon gaining his freedom, Miner Willy simply walks off the right of the screen, never looking back.
There are some differences between the Bug-Byte and Software Projects versions. The scroll-text during the attract mode is different, to reflect the new copyright, and there are also several other cosmetic changes, although gameplay remains the same:
- In Processing Plant, the enemy at the end of the conveyor belt is a bush in the original, whereas the Software Projects one resembles a PacMan ghost.
- In Amoebatrons' Revenge, the original Bug-Byte amoebatrons look like alien octopuses with tentacles hanging down, whereas the Software Projects amoebatrons resemble the Bug-Byte logo - smiling beetles, with little legs up their sides.
- In The Warehouse, the original game has threshers travelling up and down the vertical slots, rotating about the screen's X-axis. The Software Projects version has 'impossible triangle' sprites (i.e. the Software Projects logo) instead, which rotate about the screen's Z-axis.
- The Bug-Byte cheat code was the numerical sequence "6031769" - based on Matthew Smith's driving licence. In the Software Projects version this changed to "typewriter". The numerical sequence "6031769" was later used as cheat code (infinite lives) for the PC version of Grand Theft Auto.
- Internal code changes meant that a new POKE was required for infinite lives.
It was the winner of a Golden Joystick Award for best arcade style game by Computer and Video Games magazine in the March 1983 edition. Placed third in "Game of the Year 1983" of the same competition.
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Unofficial ports exist for the IBM PC compatibles (Windows, DOS and Linux), Apple Macintosh, Atari ST, ZX81, TRS-80 Color Computer, Sony PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Neo Geo Pocket Color, Acorn Archimedes, Orao, Z88, PMD 85, HP48, Microsoft Zune, Acorn Atom and Commodore 128.
The SAM Coupé version, programmed by Matthew Holt, like the ZX original requires pixel-perfect timing, and both graphics and audio, the latter by František Fuka, were greatly updated. In addition to the original twenty caverns, forty additional caverns were included in this release. Levels were designed by David Ledbury, and winners of a competition run by SAM Computers Ltd.
Although the SAM Coupé was broadly a Spectrum clone, it avoided the Spectrum's original limitations on colour graphics. Spectrum pixels could be of many colours, but the 8 horizontally adjacent pixels within the span of a character block all had to be from one of only two colours. The Manic Miner port made use of the removal of this restriction, with more detailed use of colour, most visibly in the character sprites.
The BBC Micro version does not have the Solar Power Generator, instead containing a completely different room called "The Meteor Shower". This has the "reflecting machines" from the Solar Power Generator, but there is no beam of light. Instead, it has meteors which descend from the top of the screen and disintegrate when they hit platforms, like the Skylabs in Skylab Landing Bay. It also has forcefields which turn on and off, and the layout is completely different.
Also, the very last screen (which is still called The Final Barrier) is complex and difficult (unlike the Spectrum version, which is considered to be fairly easy) and has a completely different layout. It also features the blinking forcefields.
The Amstrad version was effectively the same as the Spectrum version by Software Projects, except that Eugene's Lair was renamed "Eugene Was Here," and the layout of The Final Barrier was again completely different (but is more similar to the Spectrum version than the BBC version).
The Dragon 32 version, programmed by Roy Coates, had two extra rooms (i.e. 22 altogether) and a cheat mode accessed by typing "P P PENGUIN". To retain the resolution of the original, the Dragon version used PMODE 4 in black/white mode.
The Z88 port has all the functionality (and cheats) of the Bug-Byte and Software Projects versions. The levels are the same and there is even some background music.
The HP 48 series version is somewhat limited by the low resolution screen size, scrolling the area rather than displaying the level as a whole. This makes it a very difficult port for those who have not previously mastered another version. Otherwise it is fairly loyal to the ZX Spectrum version. Sound is somewhat different sounding and colour omitted for obvious hardware reasons, but game play remains similar despite the awkward platform.
The Commodore 16 version was limited in a number of respects - this was mainly due to the initial lack of developer material for the C16 machine, and a two-week deadline to produce and test the game, then generate a master tape for the duplication house. Other issues related to the lack of a fast loader system for the C16 cassette deck, as a result it took about seven minutes for the game to load, and a bug resulted in the game entering the first screen as soon as the tape had finished loading instead of waiting for the user to start the game. Further issues related to the lack of music and in game sound, and the way that video memory was mapped in the C16, this resulted in a number of the screens having to be removed so that load time and video mapping could be correctly handled.
The sequel to Manic Miner is Jet Set Willy, and it was followed by Jet Set Willy II. Software Projects also released a game in the style of Manic Miner for the Commodore VIC-20 called The Perils of Willy.
In addition quite a few unofficial sequels, remakes, homages and updates have been released, even up to this day, including a ZX81 version.
A homage to the loading screen appeared in one episode of the 2005 British sitcom Nathan Barley.
- Staff (January 2004). "Hall of the Miner King". Retro Gamer (1): 26.
- end of game screen
- Retro Gamer Magazine issue 48 - Interview with Matthew Smith
- Smith would later use the code "writetyper" to activate the cheat mode for Jet Set Willy.
- Manic Miner version differences
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