I collect original Manic Miner 8-bit releases from the 1980s. I guess I have almost all of them except for some re-releases, but I know for sure that I am still missing the ORIC release. I have been looking for over eight years now (February 19th, 2018), but sadly to no avail. However, today I found a Manic Miner ORIC tape image floating on the web and downloaded it. To my great surprise, I read that this release is very special indeed. Instead of 20 rooms, this ORIC port has 32 rooms! Wow!
Yes, I know the ORIC graphics suffer from the same kind of mildly annoying colour blending as Sinclair ZX Spectrum, but it does not bother me that much. You get used to it pretty quickly. On the other hand, ORIC version has better sound than other 8-bit ports. It is the same tune by Edvard Grieg as in the Spectrum original, all right, but it is longer and has two instrument voices playing instead of one doing just the brief melody.
Back in the spring of 2010, in a burst of inspired craziness, I completed Manic Miner six times in a row on a real Commodore 16 computer. A few days after that I tackled the Commodore 64 version, and completed that once with a pretty good score. I did not cheat when I completed the games and I used real hardware, not emulators. But to be honest, I practiced a lot beforehand using VICE and tricks like manipulating which room to play. If I had had no access to VICE, I am pretty sure it would have been too difficult for me.
So that was almost eight years ago. Time goes fast, I still remember those days quite clearly. After completing both Commodore Manic Miner releases, I planned on completing the original Sinclair ZX Spectrum version by Matthew Smith. But thinking back, I was simply too exhausted, and the plan never materialized. I somewhat suffered mentally and could not play platform games any longer even though I wanted to move on to China Miner and Blagger on Commodore 64. I did not have enough energy and motivation and I realized the task in hand would be huge! I gave up trying, it was too demanding mentally.
I accepted the situation and was basically done with Manic Miner. But today I am thinking of playing seriously again - this ORIC release with 12 extra rooms inspires me to at least try. Despite that, I feel scared at the same time. I remember very well how much practice, coffee and concentration it took to complete the C16 and C64 versions. I have tried the ORIC version a few times now and could not get past the third room. My timing just was not right and I could not concentrate. I do not know what I will do. It is likely that I will not play Manic Miner seriously ever again, but on the other hand I could enjoy trying out the ORIC rooms only occasionally. I do not know.
Whatever the future may hold, I figured out that there must be a way to practice the ORIC version like I did with C16 and C64. Without practicing the rooms, I have no chance of completing this game. So I spent this evening trying to find cheats.
I did find a cheats page for ORIC Manic Miner, but their POKEs translated into Oricutron's machine language monitor memory altering commands just did not work. I disassembled the code at 5540 (decimal) and found out that it was all wrong, the POKEs could not work with this tape image at all. So I was pretty desperate: for one thing I could not choose the starting room and second I had no access to infinite lives. To remedy the situation, I hacked together some very small C programs to inspect the ORIC Manic Miner address space for clues and promising opcode patterns. After maybe some three hours of head-banging and frustrating failures, I finally got the essential hacks right!
It was my intention to document the whole process with source code, but it was such a messy affair I got tired of trying, so I just could not do it this time. Sorry for that, I know it would have been educational to see how I did it. I am by no means a hacking guru, but I managed to get this done now. On with it!
Here is a ZIP file manic_cheat.zip for ORIC. I got it from the wonderful ORIC fan site oric.org. By the way, I suppose MAME supports ORIC too now that it has been merged with MESS, but I like to use Oricutron.
On Fedora Linux, I start the game with:
/opt/oricutron/bin/oricutron --tape MANIC0.TAP
After that I get "Searching..." response from the ORIC Atmos emulation. Then I press F1 and choose Insert tape, from below I check All Files and select
MANIC1.TAP. The game will then load and go to the colour code copy protection verification, because this is the uncracked original!
Please download the ORIC Manic Miner colour chart so that you can pass the verification step. Otherwise you cannot even start the game! I downloaded the chart from oric.org as well so credit goes to ORIC hackers rather than me. I just redistribute it here for easy access to ORIC Manic Miner fans out there, nothing more!
Once the game is loaded and running, it is time for my simple but effective training hacks.
mm stands for modify memory. I found that out by studying this page.
Here are the room numbers and their names:
|1||The Cold Store|
|3||Abandoned Uranium Mine|
|7||Willy Meets The Kong Beast|
|10||Attack Of The Mutant Telephones|
|11||Return Of The Kong Beast|
|13||Skylab Landing Bay|
|15||The Sixteenth Cavern|
|16||Home At Last?|
|17||Back To Work|
|18||Down The Pit|
|19||The Hall Of The Mountain Kong|
|20||At The Centre Of The Earth|
|21||The End Of The World|
|22||The Space Shuttle|
|23||Chris's Favourite Screen|
|24||Where's The Hyperspace Button?|
|25||In A Deep Dark Hole|
|26||The Channel Tunnel|
|27||Not Central Cavern|
|30||Solar Powered Generator|
|31||The Final Barrier|
I wish you luck practicing and playing ORIC Manic Miner. Have fun! I am still not sure if I have the courage to proceed. I would love to try, but am afraid of losing it mentally. But maybe someone else will complete this game?
UPDATE April 22nd, 2018: Yesterday I published video captures of the rooms 17-32 being played to completion. You can watch the videos by clicking this link!
UPDATE April 23rd, 2018: This is a happy day indeed! After some eight years of searching and numerous frustrating failures, I finally received the original ORIC Manic Miner tape from the UK today! This wonderful tape comes complete with the Software Protection Card that contains the colour codes for passing the verification step before you can enter the Manic Miner game. Here are some photos. Enjoy!