Insert Disk collects Manic Miner for the Commodore 64 (C64).
Manic Miner for the Commodore 64 (C64) and Sinclair Spectrum is one of the 80’s most iconic and best loved retro games. Matt Smith’s classic game sees miner Willy escape from a fiendishly addictive set of caves in this masterpiece platformer. Rediscover the 80’s in today’s retro game review.
Welcome to 1983 the year when bedroom coders ran riot in the British gaming industry. We look at many vintage games on this channel but today I look at a game that has really deserved its title of true classic. Today we’re taking a look back at Manic Miner. Back in 1983 the world of computing was vastly different to today. The Apple Macintosh was a year away from launch, the original Nintendo Gameboy was 6 years away and the Pentium processor was still a whole decade away from launch. It was a different time where the concept of AAA games for the home hadn’t yet materialised. 1977 had brought us the Atari 2600 and there was a glut of space themed games due to the vast expanses of black used as backdrops.
Atari may have dominated much of the gaming scene in the US but a rather different scene was developing the UK. The early 80’s were the rise of the bedroom coder. Without a strong presence from Atari in the UK other systems such as the Sinclair Spectrum range and Commodore ranges fostered an environment for the do-it-yourself attitude. The pinnacle of the self-made game revolution was undoubtedly the seminal work of British students, David Braben and Ian Bell. Their vector based game Elite pushed not only what small time coders could achieve but what a system could handle and even what games could be. The year prior though away from pushing hardware capabilities came the breakthrough moment for a British coder called Matthew Smith. Inspired by the Atari 800 game Miner 2049er he released his own take on the game, Manic Miner. The game went on to be one of the all-time classics. This is the Commodore 64 edition released by Software Projects. As you would expect the game comes on s a single cassette and features an interesting design of a mutant telephone chasing Miner Willy. The inside sleeve reveals the loading instructions as well as the short introduction of the character.
The game premise is rather simple. Each single screen of the game requires the player to collect all of the flashing keys and then make their way to the flashing exit. Each level is packed with unique enemies from toilets to penguins. The game is generally more difficult than it looks. One hit and it’s instant death. Should you hang around too long though your oxygen supply may expire also causing a lost life. You can add an additional life for every 10,000 points earned. The faster you can complete each level, the more points you will receive. Manic Miner has been ported to numerous retro and modern games machines. Its simple puzzle based action creates a real universal appeal.
For game collectors Manic Miner is an absolute must own title. It stands out as a game that was the brainchild of a single person yet enthralled a nation of gamers. The lack of mainstream games allowed seemly anyone to rise up through the ranks with an instant hit, this bares out the notion that artists should be judged on the work they produce. In terms of collecting cost the game fluctuates wildly on the auction sites. As a general guide don’t expect to pay more than £5 UK for this one, that’s around $7 US. There are a whole variety of variants of the game including various formats, publishers and cover art.
Currently the most valuable original of the game is the Bug Byte “Whistler” cover edition. Expect to pay around £15 for this edition or around $21. Manic Miners creator Matthew Smith went on to lead an eventful life living in a Dutch commune in the Netherlands and then later being deported back to the UK. He still works in the gaming industry and is a fan favourite at events here in the UK. With the success of Manic Miner it wasn’t long before the next games. Jet Set Willy and Jet Set Willy 2 were released. The first edition of Jet Set Willy is desirable due to the spelling mistake printed on the cassette. More on Jet Set Willy another time though. Manic Miner is a game that has stood the test of time despite its humble origins. I’ve played this one a lot over the years and can thoroughly recommend it. Its fun, challenging and really sums up the spirit of 1980’s gaming. The price makes collecting Manic Miner attractive but it’s the historical value and fun game design that is the real reason to collect this classic.