The good news is, the mine machinery has been piling up wealth which is there for the taking; the bad news is, it's still active and doesn't take kindly to intruders...
This game became controversial when a number of Bug-Byte programmers left to found Software Projects, and Matthew Smith used a contract loophole to take Manic Miner with him.
Manic Miner is also famed as the first ZX Spectrum game to feature a backing track alongside the sound effects, a feat previously considered impossible as the Speccy only had one sound channel. This was done by arpeggiated multiplexing: the tune and the effects were both played as a rapid staccato, and interleaved with each other. The title screen also features an attempt at two note chords using a similar method. The resulting rendition of The Blue Danube did not work quite so well.
Manic Miner contains examples of the following:
- Agony Beam: While you're being hit by the sunbeam in "Solar Power Generator", your air supply will deplete four times as fast as usual.
- Alliterative Title: Manic Miner rolls off the tongue nicely.
- Attract Mode: The 20 levels are shown in sequence if no game is started after a while.
- Ball-Balancing Seal: The guardian monsters in level 4, "Abandoned Uranium Workings", are seals balancing spinning balls on their noses.
- Classic Cheat Code: 6031769 (in the Bug-Byte version), which activates the Level Warp system. Later used in Grand Theft Auto. Also TYPEWRITER in the Software Projects version.
- Collision Damage: Player should avoid contact with everything that's not walls, floor, collectible or level exit.
- Endless Game: The game loops back to level 1 "The Central Cavern" after completing level 20, "The Final Barrier"
- Every 10,000 Points: Willy is awarded a new life for every 10,000 points added to the score.
- Everything Trying to Kill You: Everything that is not walls, platforms, levers or objects is deadly. Even the enemies consist of normally innocent things like seals minding their own business, toilets, telephones. impossible triangles and so on.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Take a wild guess as to where "The Sixteenth Cavern" and "The Final Barrier" fit into the sequence of levels.
- Faceless Eye: One of the things that must be avoided is a floating constantly-blinking eye.
- Inconveniently-Placed Conveyor Belt: The game engine allows one conveyor belt in each cavern, and they're usually positioned to hinder the player.
- One-Hit-Point Wonder: Touching enemies or hazards or falling from a certain height makes Willy lose a life.
- The Password Is Always "Swordfish": There was a prize for the first players who completed the game and figured out a final password, which is based on a fish and a sword briefly appearing when completing the last level, but only if no cheat codes are used.
- Platform Game: The gameplay is dominated by jumping between platforms of varying heights to collect items and reach the exit, while avoiding enemies and obstacles.
- Public Domain Soundtrack: The title screen plays a section of Blue Danube Waltz, complete with a piano keyboard. During the game, a section of In The Hall Of Mountain King is played.
- Rule of Funny: Surbiton is nowhere near any past or present mining areas (although quarrying has been carried out in that part of the world). Also, it's a suburban area surrounded by other suburbs for miles in every direction, hence looks nothing like the picture on the title screen.
- Shout-Out: Several.
- The mobile enemies in "The Processing Plant" are Pac-People.
- "Eugene's Lair" is a Take That! at Imagine programmer Eugene Evans.
- The two "Kong Beast" levels refer to Donkey Kong, which had been released two years earlier.
- "Attack of the Mutant Telephones" is a reference to cheesy B-movies, as probably are the two "Amoebatron" levels.
- "Endorian Forest", complete with ewoks.
- A Monty Python-esque foot squashes Willy when you lose all your lives.
- Timed Mission: You have to complete each level before your air supply runs out. Eugene's Lair has to be completed before Eugene blocks the exit, as he rushes to it as soon as Willy gets the last object of the screen.
- Underground Level: The whole game is a mine full of enemies.