Published on February 3rd, 2019 | by Kirk Hiner1
BEST Apple TV Games: Manic Miner
Nostalgia, as of late, has pretty much become its own category in the gaming world. If games aren’t remakes or reimaginings, they’re proudly promoted as being homages to or inspired by games of the past. Sometimes it’s the whole game, sometimes it’s just the look or feel of a game.
Manic Miner is the whole game. Although I’d never played (or, honestly, even heard of) it, the game has been around since its original release for the ZX Spectrum computer in the early ’80s. If you have any nostalgia for Manic Miner, quit reading here and get in your pre-order. If nostalgia is not a factor, keep reading so I can hopefully explain why this officially licensed app is one of the best throwback games you can play on your Apple TV.
As with most games of the time, the premise behind Manic Miner is simple. You’re Willy. You’re in a mine. There are objects to collect, and you have to get them all before you run out of air. Numerous enemies and obstacles are there to prevent you from doing so. If you find success, it’s onto the next screen. If you don’t, you get smashed by what appears to be a statuesque foot, all Monty Python-style.
Willy’s only ability is to jump, and you’ll be doing a lot of that in order to reach the higher levels and avoid obstacles ranging from robots to spiders to what appears to be grass (everything kills you mines and video games). Navigating your way through each screen can be tricky, but you’ll usually figure it out with just a little bit of trial and error. Thankfully, once you’ve reached a new level (some with familiar titles) it becomes unlocked as a starting point. As such, you’re never forced to replay earlier levels unless you want to try them again at a different difficulty (easy or original). Level progression has a fair ramp-up in difficulty, and the screen’s colors and obstacles change throughout to help keep things fresh as you progress.
The gameplay is classic arcade-style fun, and two development decisions help to lift Manic Miner beyond your standard 8-bit throwback. First, the original 2D graphics have been upgraded to pseudo-3D, voxel-style graphics, and the game screen even tilts away from the direction you’re running. The screen captures you see here may look like doctored PR images, but that angle is how the game is laid out (albeit zoomed in at times). Fans of the original should know, however, that a recreation of the original 2D presentation is available.
Second, Manic Miner can be played not only with select third-party gamepads but also with the Recreated ZX Spectrum keyboard device. It’s nostalgia nirvana if you have it, but don’t fret if you don’t. I was pleasantly surprised by how easily the game can be played with the Siri Remote. Slide your thumb left and right on the trackpad to move, and push it to jump. This simple system doesn’t work on many Apple TV games, but it fits perfectly with the speed and flow of Manic Miner.
A universal app, Manic Miner can be played on iOS devices along with your Apple TV. However, the colorful graphics and classical soundtrack are—perhaps ironically—best enjoyed on the larger screen. And the gameplay, as is the case with all worthwhile arcade style puzzlers, is quite addictive. My kids immediately took to the challenge and presentation of Manic Miner, and I did, too.
There may be no nostalgia factor for me here, but I can certainly see why there would be for those who cut their gaming teeth on the ZX Spectrum. Manic Miner will be available February 13th for $2.99 (ad-free). The official website states the game will only be available for 10,000 downloads or 30 days from when it goes on sale on the 13th, so get your pre-order in quickly.
BEST Apple TV was provided with a promo code for this review.