A roll on part

Magic Marble logo

ELGIN sat in his agent's office. She wasn't a very good agent. Most of the scripts on her desk ended up with the main player getting killed. "Besides," she told Elgin in an Annabel Giles cut-glass accent, "there aren't very many parts for marbles in modern computer games. They are passe".

He wouldn't have minded, but ever since he put on the boot polish for a roll-on part in Marble Madness as one of the evil spheres which try to knock you off, he had been out of work. Elgin felt rejected and rolled out of the office knocking over the remains of a flower pot which had been hacked to death by some ninja's earlier that day.

Out in the street he met Buster, a friend who worked as an explosion sprite in shoot-'em ups. Buster was on his way to audition at the fledgeling Sphinx software house. "Tag along", he said.
The Sphinx office smelt of reformed pirates, people who didn't shy away from composing unbelievably dull electropop durges on dodgey copies of Soundtracker. Buster went into the office to be cast in Thyrid, which Sphinx billed as Come Save Thyras - beat The Guardians of the Elements.

Lying on the coffee table underneath a copy of Playsprite Magazine, Elgin found a dog-eared script, Magic Marble. The plot looked thin. Something about a marble called Marvin travelling across three lands made of small tiles to save the planet MarbleBlue. Yuk, thought Elgin. And he was right.

But the action sounded OK. Lots of stunts, transforming into a man, walking on the thin ice, bouncing of mirror type devices, turning hot to melt the ice, becoming indestructible or suddenly being able to fly. The maze scenes sounded tedious, but jumping ramps was dead exciting. Perhaps Elgin could get a job as a stand-in stuntmarble.

Not exactly a big budget production, but good at combining the skills of learning a map and some adroit movements to get through the three acts. Well crafted so that the skills picked up in the first act are necessary to get anywhere in the second.

Remembering what symbols did would prove a bit tough for someone like Elgin, who had never had a speaking part, but the Steely cast in the lead would have no problem. But Elgin was wrong.

Bright the Steely burst out of the Boss's office in a cloud of cigar smoke, shouting: "I'm not working for you if you insist on having some metallic tart on the high score screen". He did a double backflip to make the point, not realising that this doesn't look very impressive when you are spherical.

"Don't worry", boomed a voice from the dark. "We'll find another marble to play the lead. Take your 0.8 per cent carbon and stick it where the electron gun don't shine."
This was his chance. Elgin walked into the office.

Magic Marble logo

Sphinx £19.95 * Joystick

This one or two player variation on a theme is also from Germany, and from a relatively unknown (over here, anyway) software house that goes by the name Sphinx. The name of the game leaves you with no doubt as to what it's all about, but just to provide some motivation here's the scenario.

A bunch of marbles are all getting along quite nicely until they realise they need a new Grytzl and getting hold of one is going to be tricky. One of the marbles is going to have to travel the forbidden lands of Wrabis, reach the other side of Marbleblue, and pick one up.

No, you can't just sit back and watch one of them get on with it. You're going to have to take control of one and guide him through ('him' because Marvin the marble is the only one brave enough to attempt this perilous journey).

There are 10 levels to the game (large levels at that!) and it's simply a case of guiding Marvin along the suspended roadways from one end to the other before the time limit expires. Because the roadways are suspended, there is a great amount of fine control required to keep Marvin from falling off (which results not in the loss of six lives, but in a reduction of time available).

The lands of Wrabis are not quite so straightforward, though. Several hazards await including disappearing tiles, invisible walls and patches of ice that are impossible to manoeuvre on. To make life easier you can pick up any of the helpful features (a big F on a tile signifies it contains a feature) such as legs that enable you to actually walk on the roadway instead of rolling along.

The only other way of gaining helpful extras is by rolling over dollar signs along the way, then stopping on a shop tile to buy the extras. The first extra you'll want is the bounce one which allows you to fall off the path and bounce straight back on.

Make it through the first land - for which you'll need to purchase several 'extra time' features - and things really start to get tricky. The path is made precarious by ramps, which always seem to be right next to a very small and thin bit of road, and which you always seem to come across just as your bounce power runs out. Then there are teleports which send you all over the level. Tricky stuff indeed.

A nice touch is the password given to you at the end of each level which means you don't have to spend hours (literally) working your way back to wher eyou got in the last game.


Although the marble is nicely shaded, there is no impression of rolling, which is a shame. The rest of the graphics are good - although there are a few of them - and everything is well animated. Sound is left to the minimum.


The levels are very large and convoluted and more than just a little tricky so it's going to take you a long time to play through the whole game. To do that your determination level will have to be very high because to get the most out of this game you'll have to put some effort in.

Magic Marble logo

Der Titel läßt sofort die angenehmsten Erinnerungen auferstehen: ah, die gute alte Zeit, als "Marble Madness" noch ein Renner war... Das neue Geschicklichkeitsspiel des deutschen Sphinx-Labels erinnert in der Praxis jedoch eher an den Oldie "Space Baller".

Eine blaue Murmel muß sicher über frei im All schwebende schmale Ebenen dirigiert werden. Der Weg ist mit allerlei Symbolen bestückt, die neben verschiedenen unschönen Auswirkungen auch das Punkte- oder Finanzkonto aufstocken können.

Trifft man ein bestimmtes Symbol, so kann zwischen unterschiedlichen Möglichkeiten gewählt werden, wie das zusammengemurmelte Geld angelegt werden soll. Für 95 Dollar geht's in den nächsten der insgesamt fünf Level, ab Dollar kann man den Punktestand nach oben aufstocken.

Magic Marble kann mit sehr ansehnlicher Grafik aufwarten, auch der verwendete Sound paßt ausgezeichnet zum Spiel und wirkt niemals störend. Einzig die Joystickabfrage ist nicht 100 Prozent befriedigend, aber wer etwas Zeit und Übung investiert, wird schon bald zum gewieften Meister-Murmler. Hier kommt der Trainingsmodus gerade recht; besonders da das dünne (mehrsprachige) Anleitungsheftchen nicht allzu aufschlussreich ist.

Fazit: Ein feines Geschicklichkeitsspiel, das zwar nicht zu den härten Amiga Drogen gehört, aber durchaus sucht-Qualität hat. (ur)