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Marble Man (Marble Madness 2)

Marble Man (aka Marble Madness 2) is the unreleased sequel to the original Marble Madness. It was developed by Atari and set to be released back in 1991. However, Atari Games Sales was deathly afraid of releasing any game that didn't return high acceptance results in play tests. Since nothing could compete with Street Fighter II (or its many clones) at that time, they decided not to put the marketing dollars into releasing a game that might only produce a modest return. Today, only a few prototype cabinets of Marble Man exist.


The race starts.

Game Design

The game had 3 sections plus a final track moving upward. Each section had 4 tracks, that needed to be completed in the allotted time, followed by a bonus wave (single screen pinball playfield) where you accumulated time for the next section. The final wave was "King of the Mountain." Bob Flanagan, one of the game's programmers, wrote, "At the very top was a tricky ice pathed mountain that was very difficult to get up. We placed all the original characters through-out the game, and added many new ones."


The final wave.

The "Marble Man" part of the game only came into play in the win/lose sequences. The player stayed as a marble until they either crossed the finish line or were killed by an enemy. Alex Rosenberg, one of the game's play testers, remembers this: "The biggest problem was that they had personified the marble. It was 'Marble Man: Marble Madness 2' or something like that. When you crossed the finish line, you'd jump up with a cape and a face and a booming "MARBLE MAN" proclamation. It was particularly gruesome when the marble happened into a acid puddle."


Notice the face on the marble?

Cabinet Controls

Atari built two different prototype cabinets for Marble Man. The first cabinet used trackballs and allowed up to three players to play simultaneously (same as Rampart). The second cabinet used joysticks with "turbo" buttons and was limited to two players.


Two cabinet designs.

Power-Ups

Marble Man extended the gameplay of Marble Madness with the concept of power-ups. Power-ups granted the marble special abilities for a short period of time. There were four power-ups in Marble Man:

  1. Cloak. Makes your marble invisible to enemies.
  2. Knobby. Gives the marble extra traction on slippery surfaces.
  3. Crusher. Doubles the size of the marble enabling you to squash enemies.
  4. Heli. Gives the marble wings to take shortcuts and capture flags.


Using the Heli power-up.

Thoughts

Marble Man is one of the most sought after prototype arcade games. There are many gamers out there who would give their right arm to be able to play the game. Since not even a MAME ROM version exists and the few owners of the game aren't interested in parting with their treasure, it may be a very long time until the general public gets their hands on this one.

Sources

I've picked up most of this information from Scott Thomas's SafeStuff.com and Bobby Tribble's letters.

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