Most of the time I'm playing these games blind, but I have to admit that I know a bit about this one already. Manic Miner and I go way back. Though I never did get past the level with those damn toilet monsters, so If I can just manage that then perhaps I'll feel like I've actually achieved something.
WARNING: The game over screen flashes like crazy. Do not stare directly at my inevitable game over screen gif. In fact, it's a ZX Spectrum game so it's probably best to not look at any of the screenshots at all.
Okay the scrolling text says keys Q to P are left and right and the entire bottom row is jump. Well that's one alternative to redefinable keys; just make half the buttons on the keyboard do the same thing so the player can press what they want.
Yep unfortunately every single thing down here is harmful to him, even the air itself. You can't see the AIR meter go down on this short loop, but if I hang around too long in game he'll soon run out of time and suffocate. The floor is his one and only ally, and even that can't be trusted to hang around for long.
- First I had to fight my natural instinct to jump over the collapsing floor as I would've ended up poking my head up through the platform above and headbutting that green bush, which Miner Willy is apparently fatally allergic to.
- Then I had to leap over the yellow clockwork toy thing patrolling back and forth on the conveyor belt. Unfortunately Willy can't steer his jump once he's airborne and he can't stomp on enemies, so screwing up the timing here is an instant fail.
- Once I'd reached the top ledge I had to grab the keys floating next to the stalactites, with two perfectly timed leaps. The punishment for misjudging a jump... is death!
- Finally all that was for me to do was to collect the last two keys without walking into the bushes like an idiot and then I could backtrack through the level to the flashing exit waffle on the bottom right. Simple!
|Donkey Kong Jr. (NES)|
Plus it was the very first game on the ZX Spectrum to have in-game music (a beepy cover of In the Hall of the Mountain King playing on a loop... forever). Thankfully it's also the first game on the ZX Spectrum with an option to turn the in-game music off.
Oh shit I just remembered the game has falling damage!
The top floor of the Menagerie is pretty straightforward, I need to make three perfect jumps in a row here without hitting ostrich nor spider along the way. But that's all collapsing floor from here to the far wall, so I only get the one shot at this.
I know, I'll get a bit of a run up, then hope my forward momentum carries me across. I think I've got a real chance here! (Flickering death animation screenshot coming up.)
Back to the very start of the game then.
Okay I'm going to need to sit and figure this level out or I'm going nowhere. There has to be an easy way to get all the keys and reach that exit box.
You know, I keep thinking of this as being a straight platformer, but it's a puzzle game isn't it really? A puzzle platformer requiring a precise plan. I can't just jump around blindly and hope to make it through with skill alone, as I'm just going to end up running out of time or getting myself stuck.
This is only level five, but it's the furthest I've ever gotten in the game, and I have no idea at all how to beat it. I mean sure okay, I can get over to the cube on the right easy enough...
It's a real conundrum.
A FEW RETRIES LATER.
I only managed to grab one cube in the end before accidentally tripping over a bush. One more mistake later and it was all over, I was kicked back to the very start of the game again to think about what I've done.
THIRTY THOUSAND TRIES LATER.
Then I threw away my last two lives accidentally tripping over toilets and turned the damn game off. Fuck you Eugene, and fuck your lair.
I'm honestly surprised at how much I like Manic Miner considering that it's thirty years old and a pain in the ass, but it actually controls pretty well and plays absolutely fair so far. Enemies move back and forth, objects are an instant kill, collapsing floors collapse and conveyor belts push me along: this is all established right away in the first level, and then it's up to me to figure out what I'm going to do about it. There's no been no bullshit surprises up to this point.
It's kind of like the Super Meat Boy of 1983 in a way, making me want to replay levels just one more time to get them right, over and over again. But unlike Meat Boy, this then takes the level away from you after a few screw ups and then forces you to replay all the stages you're already done with instead. That's the biggest thing that puts me off the game really; I can't just hammer away at a puzzle using trial and error until I solve it, as I often get just three attempts and for each my time is strictly limited. Sure you can fly through levels pretty quickly when you've mastered them, but it's so easy to accidentally slip up a few times on easy jumps and lose all your lives along the way.
So I can't recommend it, but wouldn't want to put anyone interested off trying it either. It's an important piece of British gaming history... being a bit crap is surely part of the charm.
If you have any thoughts on Manic Miner, what I said about it, or just want to brag about getting further than Eugene's lair you're welcome to leave a comment.