Manic Miner is a platform video game originally written for the ZX Spectrum by Matthew Smith and released by Bug-Byte in 1983 (later re-released by Software Projects[1]). It is the first game in the Miner Willy series and among the early titles in the platform game genre. The game itself was inspired by the Atari 8-bit family game Miner 2049er.[2] It is considered one of the most influential platform games of all time[3] and has been ported to numerous home computers, video game consoles and mobile phones. Original artwork was created by Les Harvey.[citation needed] Later Software Projects artwork was supplied by Roger Tissyman.[4]

Manic Miner
Manic miner bugbyte.jpg
original Bug-byte cassette inlay
Developer(s)Matthew Smith
Publisher(s)Bug-Byte (1983)
Software Projects (1983)
Amsoft (1985)
Platform(s)Amiga, Amstrad CPC, BBC Micro, Commodore 16, C64, Dragon 32/64, Game Boy Advance, Mobile, MSX, Oric 1, SAM Coupé, Tatung Einstein, MTX, PMD 85, Xbox 360, ZX Spectrum
Mode(s)Single player


Manic Miner's animated loading screen

At the time, its stand-out features included in-game music and sound effects, high replay value, and colourful graphics, which were well designed for the graphical limitations of the ZX Spectrum. The Spectrum's video display allowed the background and foreground colours to be exchanged automatically without software attention and the "animated" load screen appears to swap the words Manic and Miner through manipulation of this feature.

On the Spectrum this was the first game with in-game music, the playing of which required constant CPU attention and was thought impossible. It was achieved by constantly alternating CPU time between the music and the game. This results in the music's stuttery rhythm. The in-game music is In the Hall of the Mountain King[5] from Edvard Grieg's music to Henrik Ibsen's play Peer Gynt. The music that plays during the title screen is an arrangement of The Blue Danube.

Manic Miner's first room, "Central Cavern"


In each of the twenty caverns, each one screen in size, are several flashing objects, which the player must collect before Willy's oxygen supply runs out. Once the player has collected the objects in one cavern, they must then go to the now-flashing portal, which will take them to the next cavern. The player must avoid enemies, listed in the cassette inlay as "...Poisonous Pansies, Spiders, Slime, and worst of all, Manic Mining Robots..." which move along predefined paths at constant speeds. Willy can also be killed by falling too far, so players must time the precision of jumps and other movements to prevent such falls or collisions with the enemies.

Extra lives are gained every 10,000 points, and the game ends when the player has no lives left.[6] Above the final portal is a garden. To the right is a house with a white picket fence and red car parked in front. To the left is a slope leading to backyard with a pond and tree; a white animal, resembling a cat or mouse, watches the sun set behind the pond. Upon gaining his freedom, the game restarts from the first level with no increase in difficulty.

Version differencesEdit

There are some differences between the Bug-Byte and Software Projects versions. The scroll-text during the attract mode is different, to reflect the new copyright, and there are also several other cosmetic changes, although gameplay remains the same:

  1. In Processing Plant, the enemy at the end of the conveyor belt is a bush in the original, whereas the Software Projects one resembles a Pac-Man ghost.
  2. In Amoebatrons' Revenge, the original Bug-Byte amoebatrons look like alien octopuses with tentacles hanging down, whereas the Software Projects amoebatrons resemble the Bug-Byte logo - smiling beetles, with little legs up their sides.
  3. In The Warehouse, the original game has threshers travelling up and down the vertical slots, rotating about the screen's X-axis. The Software Projects version has Penrose triangles (i.e. the Software Projects logo) instead,[7] which rotate about the screen's Z-axis.
  4. The Bug-Byte cheat code was the numerical sequence "6031769" - based on Matthew Smith's driving licence.[8] In the Software Projects version this changed to "typewriter".[9][10] The numerical sequence "6031769" was later used as cheat code (infinite lives) for the PC version of Grand Theft Auto.
  5. Internal code changes meant that a new POKE was required for infinite lives.


In the UK, Manic Miner was the best selling Commodore 64 game of 1984, and the third best selling ZX Spectrum game.[11]

It was the winner of a Golden Joystick Award for best arcade style game by Computer and Video Games magazine in the March 1984 edition. Placed third in "Game of the Year 1983" of the same competition.[12]

In 1991, ACE magazine listed Manic Miner and its sequel Jet Set Willy - along with Hunchback, Impossible Mission and the Mario series - as the greatest platform games of all time calling it "the first great home computer platform game".[13]

Manic Miner was placed at number 25 in the "Your Sinclair official top 100"[14] Spectrum games of all time, and was voted number 6 in the Readers' Top 100 Games of All Time in the same issue.[15]

The game was included at #97 on Polygon's 500 best games of all time list.[16]


Official ports exist for the Commodore 64,[17] Commodore 16, Amstrad CPC,[18] BBC Micro,[19] Dragon 32/64, Commodore Amiga,[20] Oric 1, Game Boy Advance,[21] MSX, SAM Coupé, Xbox 360[22] and mobile phones.[23]

Unofficial ports exist for the IBM PC compatibles (Windows, DOS and Linux), Apple Macintosh, Atari ST, ZX81, TRS-80 Color Computer, Sony PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Neo Geo Pocket Color, Acorn Archimedes, Orao, Z88, PMD 85, HP48, Microsoft Zune,[24] Acorn Atom,[25] Commodore 128[26] and Commodore VIC-20.[27]

SAM CoupéEdit

SAM Coupé version of Manic Miner (1992)

The SAM Coupé version, programmed by Matthew Holt, like the ZX original requires pixel-perfect timing, and both graphics and audio, the latter by František Fuka, were greatly updated. In addition to the original twenty caverns, forty additional caverns were included in this release. Levels were designed by David Ledbury, and winners of a competition run by SAM Computers Ltd.[28]

Although the SAM Coupé was broadly a Spectrum clone, it avoided the Spectrum's original limitations on colour graphics. Spectrum pixels could be of many colours, but all pixels within the span of a character block had to be from one of only two colours. The Manic Miner port made use of the removal of this restriction, with more detailed use of colour, most visibly in the character sprites.

This version scored 84% in Your Sinclair,[29] and 88% in Crash.[30]

PMD 85Edit

The game was ported for Czechoslovak Computers PMD 85 in 1985. The authors of the PMD 85 version are Vít Libovický and Daniel Jenne. They made it as accurate as they could.[31]

BBC MicroEdit

The BBC Micro version does not have the Solar Power Generator, instead containing a completely different room called "The Meteor Shower". This has the "reflecting machines" from the Solar Power Generator, but there is no beam of light. Instead, it has meteors which descend from the top of the screen and disintegrate when they hit platforms, like the Skylabs in Skylab Landing Bay. It also has forcefields which turn on and off, and the layout is completely different.

Also, the very last screen (which is still called The Final Barrier) is complex and difficult (unlike the Spectrum version, which is considered to be fairly easy) and has a completely different layout. It also features the blinking forcefields.

Amstrad CPCEdit

The Amstrad version was effectively the same as the Spectrum version by Software Projects, except that Eugene's Lair was renamed "Eugene Was Here," and the layout of The Final Barrier was again completely different (but is more similar to the Spectrum version than the BBC version).

Dragon 32/64Edit

Dragon version of Manic Miner (1984)

The Dragon 32 version, programmed by Roy Coates, had two extra rooms (i.e. 22 altogether) and a cheat mode accessed by typing "P", "P", "ENGUIN". To retain the resolution of the original, the Dragon version used PMODE 4 in black/white mode.[32]


Programmed by Chris Larkin, the Oric version features 32 screens instead of 20.[33]


The Z88 port has all the functionality (and cheats) of the Bug-Byte and Software Projects versions. The levels are the same and there is even some background music.

HP 48Edit

The HP 48 series version is somewhat limited by the low resolution screen size, scrolling the area rather than displaying the level as a whole. This makes it a very difficult port for those who have not previously mastered another version. Otherwise it is fairly loyal to the ZX Spectrum version. Sound is somewhat different sounding and colour omitted for obvious hardware reasons, but game play remains similar despite the awkward platform.

Commodore 16Edit

The Commodore 16 version was limited in a number of respects - this was mainly due to the initial lack of developer material for the C16 machine, and a two-week deadline to produce and test the game, then generate a master tape for the duplication house. Other issues related to the lack of a fast loader system for the C16 cassette deck, as a result it took about seven minutes for the game to load, and a bug resulted in the game entering the first screen as soon as the tape had finished loading instead of waiting for the user to start the game. Further issues related to the lack of music and in game sound, and the way that video memory was mapped in the C16, this resulted in a number of the screens having to be removed so that load time and video mapping could be correctly handled.[34]


The Orao version was made in 1987 by Nenad Mihailovic. It was made without using any original game resources or files, by watching and replicating original Spectrum version. Therefore Orao version does not contain any secrets that were not obvious in original game, but it does have most of original levels replicated accurately. Orao computer had 256x256 black and white video, so game was adjusted accordingly.

This Manic Miner version is also contained in Android Orao emulator app, made by same author, under 'Load Game' menu.

Xbox 360Edit

A version of the game was released for the Xbox 360 as an Xbox Live Indie Game under the name Manic Miner 360 on the 21st of June 2012.[35]


The sequel to Manic Miner is Jet Set Willy, and it was followed by Jet Set Willy II. Software Projects also released a game in the style of Manic Miner for the Commodore VIC-20 called The Perils of Willy.[36]

In addition quite a few unofficial sequels, remakes, homages and updates have been released, even up to this day, including a ZX81 version.


A homage to the loading screen appeared in one episode of the 2005 British sitcom Nathan Barley.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Graham Taylor (April 1984). "And pigs will fly... Graham Taylor talks to Matthew Smith and Alan Maton of Software Projects". Popular Computing Weekly.
  2. ^ Martyn Carroll (January 2004). "Hall of the Miner King". Retro Gamer. Live Publishing (1): 26.
  3. ^ "Contents". Retro Gamer. No. 48. Imagine Publishing. 28 February 2008. p. 4.
  4. ^[bare URL]
  5. ^[bare URL]
  6. ^ end of game screen
  7. ^[bare URL]
  8. ^ Retro Gamer Magazine issue 48 - Interview with Matthew Smith
  9. ^ Smith would later use the code "writetyper" to activate the cheat mode for Jet Set Willy.
  10. ^ "Page moved".
  11. ^ The Year's Top 10 Games. Computer and Video Games 1985 Yearbook. EMAP. p. 88.
  12. ^ "The Golden Joystick Awards". Computer and Video Games. Future Publishing (29): 15. March 1984.
  13. ^ "The Greatest Games Of All Time Part One". ACE. No. 41. Future Publishing. January 1991. p. 63. Retrieved 6 May 2021.
  14. ^ "The YS Top 100 Speccy Games Of All Time (Ever!)". Your Sinclair (70): 31. October 1991. Archived from the original on 16 August 2006. Retrieved 4 September 2006.
  15. ^ "Readers' Top 100 Games of All Time". Your Sinclair. September 1993.
  16. ^ "The 500 best games of all time: 100-1". Polygon. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  17. ^ House, © Future Publishing Limited Quay; Ambury, The; Engl, Bath BA1 1UA All rights reserved; number 2008885, Wales company registration. "Manic Miner | Retro Gamer".
  18. ^ "GamesRadar+". gamesradar.
  19. ^ "Manic Miner".
  20. ^ "Amiga Reviews: Manic Miner".
  21. ^ "Updated Manic Miner to return". 1 February 2002 – via
  22. ^ "Manic Miner Lands On Xbox 360 | TheSixthAxis". 21 June 2012.
  23. ^ "Mobile phone java game for download". 13 July 2007. Retrieved 28 March 2011.
  24. ^ "Manic Miner for 3.0 Zune". ZuneBoards. 1 November 2008. Retrieved 28 March 2011.
  25. ^ "An Acorn BBC conversion of Manic Miner for the Acorn Atom". oss003. 12 February 2017. Retrieved 19 June 2017.
  26. ^[bare URL plain text file]
  27. ^ "WIP: Manic Miner port - Denial".
  28. ^ "Manic Miner". World of Sam. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
  29. ^ "Manic Miner (SAM)". Archived from the original on 15 September 2000.
  30. ^ "CRASH 98 - Manic Miner (SAM)".
  31. ^ "Manic Miner Original".
  32. ^ "Manic Miner - Dragon Wiki". Archived from the original on 2 December 2013. Retrieved 29 September 2013.
  33. ^ "Oric Version". Jet Set Willy And Manic Miner Community.
  34. ^ "C16 Version - MM". Jet Set Willy And Manic Miner Community.
  35. ^ "Manic Miner 360 -". Retrieved 21 August 2012.
  36. ^ The Perils of Willy, Universal Videogame List

External linksEdit