For decades, the unacceptable original arcade sequel by Atari Marble Madness II was one of the unimaginable “holy grail” for the popular MAME multi-platform emulator. This has limited the game to a handful of rare cabinet collectors and spectators at conferences. That changed this week, however, with the unexpected and unexplained leak of a complete Marble Madness II ROM that can now be played by the world at large.
After confirming the authenticity of the ROM by comparing its gameplay with existing shots, we looked at how and why to start this game through emulation — and talked to community experts about Marble Madness IIThe unique combination of exciting arcade story and frustrating gameplay.
A story of two Marble Madness II‘small
First, a little background. In 1991, seven years after its successful release Marble Madness, Atari Games has begun to create a sequel that includes “most of all”, as designer Bob Flanagan said in a 2020 interview with Antstream. This original sequel, with a subtitle Marble Manfull of 17 large and intricate mazes, many new enemies, three-player support, a pinball-style bonus game, and even power-ups that allow players to fly across the level or smash threats in their path.
Initial tests Marble Man However, cabinets with indoor focus groups and an outdoor test site did not go well. While this may have been the result of stiff competition from more impressive new cabinets like Street Fighter IIAtari blamed performance on the game’s trackball controls.
“We learned from Focus that trackball [sic] “is the most intuitive control to roll a marble and that it is the desired control for the high quality player”, Atari wrote in an internal Marble Madness II“document archived by historians at AtariGames.com.” But the joystick was seen as an easier check for a beginner to learn the game. So, we would like to change the trackball to a joystick and see if we get a wider audience “.
We all love a good “what if” story [and] Unreleased games like this are the closest we can get to looking at alternative realities.
Founder of the Frank Cifaldi Video Game History Foundation
Flanagan would later call the transition to a control system and accelerator buttons “wrong” due to a lack of loyalty to players. “By the time the game came out, most people had played the game this way in the domestic market and did not even know what a trackball was,” he told Antsream.
Early Marble Man Testers also reportedly reacted badly to short animations in which the marble was transformed into a humanoid superhero with a face, producing silly sound clips such as “The Adventures of Marble Man” (as seen in this video by a collector). These transformations were described as “hokey, silly and meaningless”, according to Atari documents, leading the team to “remove Marble Man from the whole game” for a second prototype.
“I made the design choice to target a very young audience with the Marble Man character,” Flanagan told Antstream. “I should have kept it as abstract as the original.”
The second, without trackball, without Marble-Man Marble Madness II Reportedly, the prototype did not fare much better than the first in limited site testing. Instead of working on the game again, Atari Games quickly withdrew its larger production plans Marble Madness II to refocus Guardians of the Hooda simple brawler with digitized human actors. Marble Madness Designer Mark Cerny, who did not develop either of the two prototypes, told Next Generation magazine in 1997 that “there are a maximum of 10 to 12 boards” of the unfortunate Marble Madness II.