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Video Game / Manic Miner

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The opening level.
Manic Miner is an 1983 video game. Willy has discovered an automated, abandoned for untold centuries, mine in Surbiton.

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.


Spawned a sequel, Jet Set Willy. A second sequel, Miner Willy Meets the Taxman, was announced but never released — indeed, probably never even started.

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.
  • 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.
  • 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.