Review: Marble Madness (Sega Genesis)

In this review, we push for the goal in the Sega Genesis game Marble Madness. We find out if this racing game is worth a play.

This game was released in 1993. We have some familiarity with this game already. Previously, we reviewed the Game Boy Color version. That game didn’t really withstand the test of time and failed to really impress. We also played the NES version. That game got a particularly good score. So, we thought we’d give this version a try to see how it plays.

Because this game is so similar to the NES version, we thought we’d focus on the differences between the two games for this review.

One interesting element is the fact that there is now a difficulty setting. You can choose between easy, medium, and hard. While the courses are completely unaltered between the difficulty, the amount of time you earn between each course is. Of course, altering the time is pretty much all you need to adjust if you want to make this game easier or harder.

Another noticeable element is the fact that you can exceed 99 seconds. Generally, the NES version caps out at 99 seconds. In this game, the display shows 99 seconds, but you can earn more time beyond that and the clock will freeze at 99 seconds until there is less then that left on the clock.

The difficulty of this game is generally a bit easier as well in this version thanks to the time allowances. The original NES difficulty seems to hover between medium and hard in this version. That kind of tells you how difficult the earlier version really was.

Some will say this game is pretty difficult. This game ultimately boils down to practice. I didn’t have too much of a tough time getting very far, but that can be attributed to the fact that I’ve already played two other versions with reasonable success. Other players may not get that luxury and may find this game pretty challenging still. Even then, at least fans of the Sega Genesis version will have an easier time than those who played it on the NES a few years earlier.

The problem with this game being released when it was is the length. Generally, for a console game at this time, this game is very short. It’s not the shortest game I’ve played, but it can be pretty detrimental to a game like this.

Another complaint I’ve heard about this game is the fact that this version doesn’t add anything that wasn’t already in the original. I’m inclined to agree with that criticism because the Sega Genesis, I’m certain, can hold more courses. In fact, I was hoping that the original would be found in a “classic” mode. Then, there would be an “easy” course set, “medium”, and “hard” – each with their own levels. Unfortunately, that doesn’t exist here, so it just seems like the developers took the easy way out for this one. A bit disappointing in that regard.

Generally speaking, this version showed how much opportunity this game had to build on what made the original so good. Instead, it just copies everything from another system over and calls it a done deal. Thanks in part to this, the length leaves a fair bit to be desired. The game is pretty difficult, but not overbearingly so like other games I’ve played.

The graphics have their pluses and minus here. One plus is that the slime enemies have better special effects applied to them. You can now see the grid floor through them in an interesting way. The other enemies are better rendered than in the previous version I’ve played. Even some of the special effects applied to the ball (i.e. magic wand and broom) are better drawn out as well. The downside for this game is the fact that the colors are much more muted. As a result, a number of different levels feel more lifeless than in the NES version. So, a fairly average effort as far as I can tell.

For a system that has so much better audio capabilities, the audio sure took a hit in quality. The basic tracks in each level are there, but are much messier than before. The instruments almost make the music sound more like noise than actual music at times. The bird section in the Silly Race is truly the most bizarre pare about this. The music fades away any there is just random noises. I’m guessing those are the sounds of the birds, but it just sounds terrible. The only thing that has improved is the sound effects. That is only marginally so. So, it’s not that great here.

Overall, this game had lots of potential going into a more powerful system. Unfortunately, it’s left me disappointed about what could have been. The difficulty feature is a nice addition as it gives players more allowances to play around the levels with. Underneath a lot of the plainness is a pretty solid game. The original gameplay is left intact. Unfortunately, because nothing has really changed, the length is pretty short. The graphics are a bit disappointing with all the colors being more muted. The special effects and animations of enemies are somewhat improved. The audio just doesn’t measure up like other versions do, unfortunately. Overall, if you can, stick with the NES version. This game is still alright, but not as good.

Furthest point in game:
Easy: Won
Medium: Goal area visible on Silly Race
Hard: Made it past the hammers near the finish line.

General gameplay: 19/25
Replay value: 8/10
Graphics: 5/10
Audio: 2/5

Overall rating: 68%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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