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Antstream Arcade Archive: Manic Miner

In our latest Antstream Arcade Archive series, we take a look at another specific retro game from the Antstream Arcade vault, giving you the lowdown on its plot, gameplay and tips. This month we present the ZX Spectrum legend, Manic Miner, the 1983 platform game that cemented its lead character and creator, Matthew Smith, into gaming folklore.

Ok so I’m loading this up – wow, what is that noise?

Ah yes, the famous ZX Spectrum beeper. Sound wasn’t exactly a priority at Sinclair during the Spectrum’s design, so programmers had to make the best of what they had to work with. We think it’s fair to say that the introductory ‘tune’ is not the finest part of Manic Miner. Fortunately, the main game has a somewhat more listenable rendition of In The Hall Of The Mountain King.

I thought that sounded familiar!

For the ZX Spectrum, having a tune and sound effects during a game was a considerable technical achievement, and something that some people even thought was not possible! Anyway, on to the game and…

Oops. I’m dead.

Ah yes. Welcome to Manic Miner. The brave potholer has found a hidden entrance to an ancient mine and is greedily eyeing up all the treasures that lay strewn about. Unfortunately, mining robots, insane from a millennia of toil, threaten to chop him up in every cavern.

I’ve got the hang of the jumping now, so it’s a bit – hang on, that floor just disappeared!

Yes, there are plenty of devious tricks to Manic Miner – so stay alert! As you have discovered, some floors are indeed collapsible, and practically all the vegetation and local wildlife is deadly to the touch. There are also ladders, conveyor belts and a host of weird and wonderful nasties to avoid if Miner Willy is to make it back to his home.

This is one tough game – does it get harder?

Some of the screens don’t tax you too much – second level The Cold Room is an easy one to negotiate, for example. But in the main, yes, Manic Miner is a stiff challenge, culminating in a screen that has gone down in Speccy legend as one of the most devious bits of gaming ever: the Solar Power Generator.

Why’s it so tough?

In addition to the usual array of enemies to avoid and pixel-perfect jumps, the Solar Power Generator has a character-wide beam of light that randomly projects across the screen. Should it touch Willy, then some of his valuable air is whooshed away, making the level an extremely dangerous race against time.

I look forward to that one, then. Some of those enemies look a little odd.

Part of the appeal of Manic Miner is the arcane nature of its sprites, sprung from the madcap mind of creator Matthew Smith. There are numerous references to Eighties culture as well, from the crashing Skylabs to bouncing cheques, Pac-Man and Smith’s fellow coder, Eugene Evans.

Right. So any tips?

Each level was intricately designed by Matthew Smith so that the player is forced to traipse across the screen from left to right and back again, with lots of well-timed jumps needed. The only real way to progress is to practice, although you can observe the levels in advance thanks to the novel attract sequence that’s replicated on Antstream Arcade.

Manic Miner sounds like a challenge in itself – but are there any Antstream Arcade challenges?

We have three Manic Miner challenges on Antstream Arcade. Germ Jumper is merely about scoring as many points as possible by jumping within the time limit, while Vat’s All Folks has a similar goal only achieved by collecting keys. Finally, Kong Collapse requires you to hit both switches in the Kong Beast screen, thus slaying the chest-beating monster!

How does the high score table look?

As you’d expect with such a well-known game, busy and competitive. The top two of Mpk (143,702 points) and VeeKiraRay (103,673 points) are streets ahead of the number three place, NotMinerWilly with 27,239 points. If you fancy breaking into the top ten, then you’ll need to best THECRUX and their score of 17,094. Even that’s no mean feat.

Is there anything similar available on Antstream Arcade?

Oh crikey, yes – there are copious platform games ready for subscribers, from fellow 8-bit legends such as Monty On The Run and Dizzy, to 16-bit games Switchblade 2 and Elf. If platforming is your genre of choice, we’ve most definitely got you covered on Antstream Arcade. Now, get jumping!

Watch out for another Antstream Arcade Archive soon!

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