The Game Gear has a surprisingly good conversion of the classic Atari arcade game, Marble Madness, in its library. It was coded by Steve Lamb and published by Tengen in 1992.
As anyone who’s played Marble Madness before will know: the gameplay is simple. Guide a rolling marble through an isometric course of slopes and hazards, in order to reach the end goal area within the time limit. Doing this is easier said than done, though.
There are various factors than can get in the way of progress, like black opponent balls that will knock you off course, acid pools that will melt your marble, or suckers that will swallow it! Dropping too far will either daze your ball (and therefore stop it momentarily), or even shatter it if it falls some distance. You can also fall off the sides of the course which will cause you a time penalty. In later levels there are also blowers that will blow you off course; wave machines; rising poles that can violently knock you off course, and other even more devious hazards.
The early courses are fairly short and straightforward, but their complexity and difficulty increases as you progress through the game, becoming extremely challenging from stage three onward.
There’s a two player link-up mode where you race the other player to the goal, but in single player mode it’s simply a race against the clock.
From the main menu screen you can choose between eight levels of difficulty and two types of control modes (normal or diagonal). There’s also a sound test mode that hides a secret level select option (choose ‘C’ as Test FX, and ‘6’ as Test Tune).
The graphics and sound in the Game Gear conversion of Marble Madness are surprisingly close to the arcade original, and it’s a fun game to spend some time with for a while. I managed to get further in this game than I’ve ever managed to get in the original arcade game (without cheating – at least initially). I don’t know what that means, but it must count for something. Maybe it’s easier? I don’t know. It’s still a challenging game, though.