Normally, you’d think that rolling a shiny metal ball around a stage without letting it fall would make for a great game. The original Marble Madness was wonderful, with its excellent trackball controller and more recently, Marble Blast Ultra on Xbox Live Arcade showed that such a game could work with a controller. But that was long after analog sticks became the norm, and poor Genesis gamers had to suffer with playing on a totally unsatisfactory D-pad. The Genesis port of Marble Madness suffered because of it, among other things, and the resulting effort was poor enough for even creator Mark Cerny to disown it!
The term “arcade classic” isn’t the first thing to come to mind when the game in question features a penguin pushing ice blocks at his foes, but it quickly makes sense when you consider what types of machines populated ’80s arcades. Sega’s Pengo was a fun (and hard) maze chase game that racked up its fair share of quarters before changing gaming tastes sent it off to franchise storage, but the plucky penguin did return for a Game Gear port in 1992. However, it wasn’t until Sega remade the game completely for the Mega Drive three years later that its true brilliance finally emerged. Unfortunately, Pepen Ga Pengo was left behind in Japan, and it now commands a hefty price on eBay.
One of the few video game icons that always finds a way to reinvent himself, Pac-Man has done just about everything but grab a gun and fight terrorists (I think that one’s coming to consoles soon). Namco has always endeavored to bring its hungry yellow mascot to new fans, with the most recent attempt being the simple yet incredible Pac-Man Championship Edition on Xbox Live Arcade. One other incarnation that benefited immensely from a simple gameplay addition was Pac-Mania, which simply altered the gameplay perspective and added a jump button. The result was an arcade hit that was ported to about forty billion systems the galaxy over.
The Genesis launch had a pretty good line up of games that tried to cover as wide a range of genres as possible. Zoom! made a valiant attempt to fill the maze game niche, and while it demonstrated some serious potential, it was ultimately undone by repetitive gameplay and extreme simplicity.
There are good maze games, and there are bad maze games. Ms. Pac-Man is a a good example of the genre done right. At the opposite end of the spectrum is Trampoline Terror!, which has to be one of the worst on the Genesis. It’s actually appropriate that this is a maze game, as the developers seem to have been lost throughout the entire development cycle.