Marble Madness will always be a legendary for how unique and short it is and this is just the portable version if it. For those new, Mable Madness is a unique take on a “race to the finish,” because you play as a marble and go down isometric courses full of ramps, hazards and rough terrain. The goal is simple, make it from the start to the finish within the allowed time. Your finish time then carries over to the next course, but these five courses are short, but they’re full of hazards such as puddles of acid, vacuums, enemy marbles, slinkies that eat your marble and several challenges.
On the GameBoy, Marble Madness feels like it was easily ported from the NES. There are a few differences here and there, such as the unfair hammers at the end of the third course and the fact that the final sixth course has been removed. These changes make the game easier, but a short game gets shorter without that final course. While it is a brief game, only around five or ten or so minutes, once you complete it, the game starts over again from the second stage. So you just keep going until you run out of time.
You need to get used to the controls and its physics. The game lets you select a control scheme of 90 or 45 degrees for your D-pad. The momentum is the real learning curve you’ll have to overcome. Moving too fast can send you right over an edge. You’ll roll down ramps, picking up speed and even need to get enough momentum to roll up the ramps.
Because its Marble Madness, there are a few frustrating issues. Traps like the pistons will launch your ball, block it or break it entirely. There are narrow ramps and platforms that you’ll need to be precise to get across. Every broken marble or pit will cost you time as you respawn. There are wands that will bestow extra time upon you, but they are few and far between. Your marble can also get dazed if you fall off a cliff, but its not high enough to break the marble.
As for the sound on the portable console, the amazing music from the NES version has ported well into the GameBoy and they sound almost identical. Its a good thing with such memorable music that borders on fun circus music.
The first course is simple enough to get you from point A to point B. There are trenches in the course and embankments to keep you on the right path. You’ll even find guardrails in key places to keep you from flying off. The second course is more of a challenge, walls, narrow slopes you can plunge off of, a hydrolic bridge, enemies that will swallow you whole, a choice of two paths with one being short, rough terrain and the other being longer.
The third course has moving acid puddles that are easy to fall into. The worm enemy from the previous level is tougher to die from, because you can bump into them and they still need to jump and eat you. Toward the end is a wave that can roll you quick and potentially off the edge. Otherwise, you can roll down, then up a narrow pathway without falling off, but you might waste too much time rolling back up a hill.
In the next course, there are vaccums to suck you in and rough ramps that require some accuracy to make it past. After that, you’ll find a catapult that I always enjoyed, even if it dazes your marble afterword. You then have a choice of taking the piston route or the longer path that weaves back and forth with the potential to fall off. This course probably makes the best use of the isometric three dimensional look. There are ramps. jumps, bridges and underpasses.
After that course, you start at the bottom and need to work your way to the top, going up ramps. Its a nice change of pace in what is a super quick game. Of course rolling up means it takes more momentum and if you almost make it up, that’s just time wasted. Once you’re done with that course, you just keep going like any arcade game. You go until you run out of time.
It is sad that there are no new courses and the only real frill is a two player linked mode, so two players can race each other down the course. If you have the NES version, this one doesn’t have much appeal other than its portable.