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Marble Madness is an arcade video game designed by Mark Cerny and published by Atari Games in 1984. The player uses a trackball to guide an onscreen marble through six obstacle-filled courses within a time limit. Marble Madness was Atari’s first game to use the Atari System 1 hardware and to be programmed in the C programming language. It was also one of the first games to use true stereo sound; previous games used either monaural sound or simulated stereo.
Cerny drew inspiration from miniature golf, racing games, and artwork by M. C. Escher. He applied a minimalist approach in designing the appearance of the game’s courses and enemies.
Marble Madness was commercially successful. The game was ported to numerous platforms and inspired the development of other games. A sequel was developed and planned for release in 1991, but canceled when location testing showed the game could not compete with other titles.
Marble Madness is an isometric platform game in which the player manipulates an onscreen marble from a third-person perspective. The player controls the marble’s movements with a trackball, though most home versions use game controllers with directional pads. The aim of the game is for the player to complete six maze-like, isometric race courses before a set amount of time expires. With the exception of the first race, any time left on the clock at the end of a race is carried over to the next one, and the player is granted a set amount of additional time as well. The game allows two players to compete against each other, awarding bonus points and extra time to the winner of each race; both players have separate clocks.
As the game progresses, the courses become increasingly difficult and introduce more enemies and obstacles. Each course has a distinct visual theme. For example, the first race (titled “Practice”) is a simple course that is much shorter than the others, while the fifth race (named “Silly”) features polka-dot patterns and is oriented in a direction opposite that of the other courses.