Way back in 1983 a game was released which was very hard to play, had some of the most migraine-inducing sounds around but turned out to be one of the most addictive games ever released. Matthew Smith was the developer behind Manic Miner, a London-born programmer who had started his career writing games for the TRS-80 and VIC-20 before being loaned a ZX Spectrum in return for writing three games for that platform.
Manic Miner was the result of a supposed six weeks development and it was the second game Smith wrote (after Styx) for Bug-Byte. He would later develop the even more popular sequel Jet Set Willy but let’s stick to Manic Miner for the moment. An Atari 800 game called Miner 2049er is said to have been the inspiration behind Manic Miner. Although sound effects were not unusual in games at that point, it was the first ZX Spectrum game to feature in-game music and whether you liked it or not, it was an impressive technical feat. Classical music fans who played Manic Miner will know that the title music is Johann Strauss’ The Blue Danube while the in-game music is the Edvard Grieg’s Hall of the Mountain King.
So how far did you get playing Manic Miner? I can honestly say that I didn’t make much progress, but I was limited to odd sessions at a friend’s house; at my house we made do with the aforementioned TRS-80. Players had to guide Willy the protagonist through twenty different platforming rooms, avoiding a variety of roaming enemies (which of course stuck to pre-determined paths). Jumps had to be times correctly and from memory it was one of the first games I played which featured collapsing platforms. What made it even more difficult was a time limit based on the amount of oxygen in the room.
I’m sure there are those out there who can truthfully claim to have beaten the game but I’m not one of those; I reckon level 7 or 8 was my maximum. It probably goes without saying that Manic Miner was ported to numerous other platforms and also spawned several other games based on the adventures of Miner Willy. You can still find playable versions online now; give it a go.