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After 30 years, the world can now play lost Marble Madness II

After 30 years, the world can now play lost Marble Madness II
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Enlarge / A glimpse of what could have been…

Aurich Lawson | Getty Images

For decades Atari’s arcade sequel prototype scrapped Marble Madness II been one of the unemulated “holy grails” for popular cross-platform emulator MAME. This limited gameplay to a handful of rare cabinet collectors and convention goers. That changed this week, however, with the unexpected and unexplained leak of a Marble Madness II ROMs which can now be played by the whole world.

After confirming the authenticity of the ROM by comparing its gameplay to existing footage, we took a look at how and why to run this game through emulation – and spoke to community experts about Marble Madness IIunique blend of thrilling arcade story and disappointing gameplay.

A story of two Marble Madness IIit is

First, a bit of contextualization. In 1991, seven years after the successful release of The madness of marbleAtari Games decided to create a sequel that would include “more of everything”, as designer Bob Flanagan put it. in a 2020 interview with Antstream. This sequel prototype, subtitled marble manpacked into 17 vast and intricate mazes, many new enemies, three-player support, pinball-style bonus play, and even power-ups that allow players to fly through the level or crush threats in their path.

the original marble man prototype of Marble Madness II featured over-the-top animations.

The first attempts at marble man firms with internal discussion groups and at an external test location didn’t go well, however. Although this may have been the result of fierce competition from flashier new cabinets like Street Fighter IIAtari blamed the performance on the game’s trackball controls.

“From Focus, we learned that trakball [sic] is the most intuitive control for throwing a marble, and that it is the desired control for the high-end player,” Atari wrote in an internal “Changes to Marble Madness II” document archived by historians at AtariGames.com. “But, the joystick was seen as an easier control for a beginner to learn the game. So, we would like to change the trakball to a joystick and see if we gain a wider audience.”

We all love a good “what if” story, [and] unreleased games like this are the closest we get to peek into alternate realities.

Frank Cifaldi, founder of the Foundation for the History of Video Games

Flanagan would later call the move to a joystick and throttle button control scheme a “mistake” driven by a lack of trust in players. “By the time the game was supposed to come out, more people had played the game that way in the domestic market and didn’t even know what a trackball was,” he told Antsream.

Early marble man testers also reportedly reacted badly to brief animations where the marble transformed into a humanoid superhero with a face, spouting goofy soundbites like “The Adventures of Marble Man” (as seen in this video from a collector). These transformations were described as “hokey, dumb, and meaningless”, according to Atari documents, leading the team to “remove Marble Man from the entire game” for a second prototype.

“I made the design choice to target too young an audience with the character of Marble Man,” Flanagan told Antstream. “I should have kept it abstract like the original.”

Deux prototypes de <em>Marble Madness II</em> in the hands of a single collector.  Note the joystick and button controls for the cabinet on the right.” src=”https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/protomm2.jpg” width=”461″ height =”614″/><figcaption class=

Of them Marble Madness II prototypes in the hands of a single collector. Note the joystick and button controls for the cabinet on the right.

The second, without trackball, without Marble-Man Marble Madness II the prototype would not have done much better than the first in limited localization tests. Rather than rework the game yet again, Atari Games quickly abandoned wider production plans for Marble Madness II refocus on Hood Guardiansa simple brawler featuring digitized human actors. The madness of marble designer Mark Cerny, who did not participate in the development of one or another sequel prototype, told Next Generation magazine in 1997 that “there are at most 10 to 12 councils” of unfortunate Marble Madness II.

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