It is now February 16th, 2019. Many people who are interested in computer gaming history know that a classic platformer Manic Miner was written by Matthew Smith way back in 1983. Matthew's original version was for a British Z80-based machine called Sinclair ZX Spectrum having 48 kilobytes of RAM, but that was just the beginning - Manic Miner was a big hit and it was soon ported to numerous other 8-bit computers.
This game is pretty difficult, but nevertheless quite popular among the hardcore retrogamers and other "old skool" computer freaks. Of course nothing prevents the younger generation from trying out Manic Miner, too. It is indeed one purpose of this article to help people to play this fantastic, demanding game using emulation on modern PCs.
As it happens, I collect 8-bit Manic Miner original releases. Less than a year ago on April 23rd, 2018, I already thought I had all of them after having acquired the rare ORIC Atmos release. But just a few days ago I discovered that I was wrong: There exists a Manic Miner port for the rare 8-bit machine called Tatung Einstein! That version was programmed by Cameron Else, the miracle man who completed the original Jet Set Willy and won a prize for his feat. Wow, unbelievable!
So I am now desperately looking for that elusive Tatung Einstein release to complete my 8-bit Manic Miner collection. Rest assured that the task is not easy, but I have no other option than to give it a try. If you can sell one, please contact me via email (email@example.com).
Yesterday I wrote a small tutorial about how to get Tatung Einstein emulation running on modern PC hardware. So first of all, you should start by reading the article Tatung Einstein emulation on Fedora Linux 29 using MAME. With that article and a little bit of creativity, you can get MAME emulation working on any Linux, BSD, or even Windows.
Today I tried to figure out whether MAME has support for any kind of Machine Language Monitor, because I wanted to enable free room selection in Manic Miner. I could not find such a feature, so I took an alternative route: I created a specific disk image for each of the 20 rooms that this Tatung Einstein version has. "Why?", you may ask. The answer is: to help people who want to practice this particular version on Tatung Einstein. It helps immensely when you can select the starting room and grind out the later levels that you would normally enter only every once in a while.
How did I create the disk images? Just like with the MOS 6502 CPU ports, but this time I wrote two simple C programs that looked for Zilog Z80
LD A,0 sequences in the disk image, and altered the zero to one to see whether it would change the initial room from
CENTRAL CAVERN to
THE COLD ROOM. Expressed in hexadecimal bytes, the sequence was
0x3E, 0x00. Luckily those sequences occurred only rarely, and the third substitution turned out to be correct one. So it was nothing else but brainless brute force cracking again, if you can even call it that, but it did work out like a charm and that is what mattered to me. I wanted to get the job done quickly.
NOTE: If you intend to complete Manic Miner, it makes sense to practice all rooms individually until you can master them, and then go for the serious attempt without any cheats enabled. That is how I completed Manic Miner both on Commodore 16 and Commodore 64 back in the spring of 2010, almost nine years ago. But I have had enough of demanding gaming, my nerves just cannot stand any real Manic Miner completion attempts. I have to leave the task of completing this Manic Miner to others.
Please download manic_miner_on_tatung_einstein.zip and unpack it with:
A directory called
manic_miner_on_tatung_einstein will be created, and it contains twenty very slightly different disk images, each having a single different byte to select the initial starting room. The files are named according to the room numbers, i.e.
MM20.ZIP. There is no need to unzip them, because MAME can do that automatically on demand when you load the disk images.
For example, to start practicing with room 5 Eugene's Lair, you would just do:
Here are the room numbers and their names:
|2||The Cold Room|
|4||Abandoned Uranium Workings|
|8||Miner Willy Meets The Kong Beast|
|10||The Endorian Forest|
|11||Attack Of The Mutant Telephones|
|12||Return Of The Alien Kong Beast|
|14||Skylab Landing Bay|
|16||The Sixteenth Cavern|
|19||Solar Power Generator|
|20||The Final Barrier|
Here are screenshots of all of the rooms.
Exactly like with other Manic Miner versions, the room 20 The Final Barrier, is very easy. I tried to complete it to see what would happen. To my delight, this Tatung Einstein port has a proper ending! After collecting the last item, and jumping to the exit, Miner Willy ascends up to the ground level, and the game actually ends with a brief musical fanfare. Very cool surprise indeed!
This behaviour is unlike in other versions that I have tried. The versions I have played (Commodore 16, Commodore 64, ORIC Atmos) do not end, but they just restart from the
CENTRAL CAVERN again. By the way, I also suspect that this port might run slightly faster than e.g. Commodore 64 version, but I am not totally sure about it.
In any case, I hope you have fun with the fantastic Tatung Einstein Manic Miner version.
Thanks to Matthew Smith and Cameron Else for making Manic Miner possible.Kalevi Kolttonen <firstname.lastname@example.org>