3.75 / 5
Arcade ports made their way to the Nintendo Entertainment System quite regularly, but only a few were as faithfully transferred as Marble Madness was. Ported to the system in 1989 by Rare and published by Milton Bradley, the goal of this game is to guide a marble through an obstacle course of enemies and pitfalls, within a strict time limit.
The game has only five levels, but the difficulty ramps up significantly after the first beginner level. This is made even more difficult by the choice of control schemes, something almost unheard of on the simple NES gamepad. You were able to chose to have your D-Pad in the standard 90 degree position or turned 45 degrees to the right. Why would you want this? Because the movements were almost always diagonal, so this actually made the game easier… once you got used to the oddity of it all.
While the graphics are simplistic, as is fitting for the time period, the game never looks ugly and it has a vibrant and distinct color palette. You can always tell what obstacles are what, which enemies are which and never lose your marble in the background.
The gameplay is fast and hectic, as you try and beat the timer. As with most arcade ports, the timer was a bit unfair. You have to bear in mind that these games were designed with arcade machines in mind, with new lives being granted in exchange for quarters. Since you can’t (and shouldn’t try to) feed quarters into your NES, this can lead to frustration and a feeling of artificial difficulty best summed up as ‘Nintendo Hard’.
Musically, it uses the simple tones available to produce driving tones that are more than enough to hold your attention. The second level’s music has the potential to become quite the ear-worm, not only for it’s quality… but also for the amount of times you will hear it as you repeatedly try and beat the game.