Manic Miner – A Retro Retrospective Part 2 – The Cold Room

Winter is coming

In the post-war designed house I grew up in, the kitchen had a small stone shelved pantry that acted as our cold room. A remnant from days before refrigeration, it wasn’t a large posh walk-in store, but merely a reasonable sized cupboard. I remember this getting knocked down to make more room in the kitchen as I had one of those rare lucky days where I was allowed to play the Spectrum in the living room on the colour TV. It was goodbye to one cold store and hello to another.

The use of the magenta tiles against the blue background in this level, psychologically always worked well to make me feel cold when playing.  As many of us like-minded, 70’s born 8-bit fanatics, I still vividly recall what it felt like playing my Spectrum in my pre central heating era bedroom.  A dressing gown over my clothes and on my feet were the thickest of socks that probably were knitted by my grandmother from cheap, scratchy and nasty wool that could only have been acquired from the fleece area around a sheep’s anus.  Even on this rare occasion down in the living room, with the coal fire roaring away and squealing from the potato peels that had been chucked in it, I still found myself cold.  I have to say that in all of the game’s levels – this is the most aesthetically befitting one.  All that was missing was a puff of vapour from Miner Willy’s breath.

My brother who was playing the game with me this day, told me a joke I’ll always remember.  What do Polar Bears and Police Men have in common? Blue Helmets.

This level didn’t look as challenging as its predecessor. Before I knew it, I had quickly jumped from the ground, onto the crumbly platform and onto the conveyor belt to collect the ice lolly. I love how the dual direction of the conveyors work in Manic Miner.  They have a default direction, but if you land on it from the opposite direction, you can go that way until you let go of the direction key. When you do let go, you go back in the default direction.  So, with a quick key release, the conveyor hurled me back to the right and I timed my jump onto the next platform. From there I waited on the shuffling penguin to move back to the right.  I then hopped up to that level, grabbed lolly, jumped over the penguin on its return journey and collected the lolly from the crumbly floor.  This is where it got interesting.  There was a shaft full of crumblers that took me back to the bottom floor.  Timing was paramount – I needed to get back down to collect the lolly down on the ground that I hadn’t collected and there was a roving penguin down there that walked right under the shaft.  With my timing guessed, I let Willy slip down the shaft (ooer), collecting the lolly trapped within. With precision timing as always from me, I hit the bloody penguin and died.

Gurr, there’s got to be a better way, I thought.  The method in which I died relied upon too much trial and error. A quick trip to the loo and a read of Crash magazine whilst I finished my business, presented me with one of my many toilet seat epiphanies;  get the bottom lolly first and see if I can fall down the right side of the shaft. Yes indeed, after I wiped my arse, I was going to try a leap of faith (hand washing as well, I may add).

Easily leaping over the lower level penguin’s head, I got my lolly no bother and jumped back over the bird to ascend the same route as before.  Very quickly, it was time to test the leap of faith. I jumped too big and wide and hit the stalactite and died.  My expletives were masked by the sledge hammer slams from the kitchen.  I quickly returned to the same point and triumphantly plummeted into the flashing gate and I was presented with that wonderful sound of the remaining air depleting. From then on, I always played the level this way.

The one thing I never tried, was to see how well the collision detection works for the gate if the penguin is within there when you land. Does the player die, or does the gate save you from death by bird? I’ll need to try this.