Melbourne House
John F. Cain
1986
Arcade: Action
£8.95
English
ZX Spectrum 48K
None

186
Chris Bourne

Following the recent spate of Marble Madness clones, along comes the grand master himself in the form of a construction set from MELBOURNE HOUSE. Once more the hero of the game is Mr Spherical, a ball, who takes to the slippery slopes of the crooked palace of power. The game is split into two parts; firstly the game ... life as a marble can't be an easy one; especially when you're trapped in a strange world of unreality, where the laws of physics that you once held true no longer apply. So, to pass the time Mr Spherical enters himself for the local races. The aim of these is a simple one - to reach the end of each level before your time runs out.

With four directions at your disposal, you must keep Mr Spherical under control as he winds his weary way to the bottom of the racetrack. Racing over the flat planes isn't so bad, but the narrow ramps and bridges can prove extremely hazardous - one small roll out of place, and with a resounding scream poor old Mr Spherical plunges to his death in the murky swamplands which surround the track. Many creatures inhabit the swamplands, and some of these occasionally force themselves up onto the racetrack - in search of any slow-witted contestants who may fall prey to the difficult corners. The most notorious of the lot are the evil marbles who roll carelessly along the plains, they also bring with them their sproingy mates who move in a slinky fashion on the surface of the slopes. Contact with these, and any other of the various nasties leads to obliteration as well as a loss of time.

If you become fed up with the preset patterns of the racetrack, there is an option on the title screen which allows you to construct your own. The construction process is controlled by the four standard direction keys plus a fire key Running down the right hand side of the construction screen is a selection of the various planes that can be used to make up your revised track. They include two angular planes, one flat, one vertical, a left and right slant and two steep slants. Along the bottom of the screen is a text option window. Using this, you can place oddments on the screen such as time displays, points scored, and marks of 100, 300 and 500. These can be put anywhere your heart desires. All of these options are accessed by moving your arrow cursor onto the one you want and pressing fire. Doing this allows you to move the item around the screen until you find a place to plonk it down. Once you have successfully completed the construction of a screen, select Test and a marble appears at the top - now it's time to see if your Great Design has worked, or like all the other Great Designs has it disappeared down the plughole...

CRITICISM

'I must confess that after a little while I was quite getting into designing my own screens but when It came to actually playing them the game began to annoy me. Graphically this is run-of-the-mill for this type of game, your ball skids around the playing area fairly smoothly, the backgrounds are detailed and there are no attribute problems anywhere in the game. The sound is very good, a tune plays continuously on the title screen and throughout the game. On the whole if you are a fan of this type of game then perhaps this will appeal to you.'

'Marble Madness looks far too much like the old Gyroscope to be much of a success. I'm not really too keen on this type of game anyway, but this one is just bad news. The graphics are poor, and though the movement of the marble is fairly smooth, the whole thing is just a mite too unplayable.'

'I didn't really like the arcade machine that much, so I was a bit cautious when it came to reviewing the computer version. To be honest, Marble Madness is very badly written. The graphics are of the monochromatic kind, and with these you can't go far wrong, although the way they are manipulated is very slow and jerky. It took an amazingly long time to actually move the ball from one side of the screen to the other - but once done, it takes ages to flick to the next screen. Apart from being unplayable I also found it very inaccurate - constantly I found myself disappearing down holes that weren't there, and rebounding off invisible walls. This is a very bad game, and considering it's from the people that brought us Gyroscope it is even worse.'

COMMENTS
Control keys: redefinable, up, down, left, right, fire
Joystick: Kempston, Cursor, Interface 2
Keyboard play: like nailing jelly to the ceiling
Use of colour: monochromatic play area
Graphics: detailed, with good animation
Sound: excellent rendition of the arcade tune
Skill levels: one
Screens: 11
General Rating: A good idea poorly executed.

65%
71%
54%
69%
62%
61%
61%

Screenshot Text

The icon driven construction screen; Cameron obviously has a sick sense of humour.

The game in action, it looks like Cameron's about to take a tumble.