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MAME ARTICLE - February 1997

Nicola Salmoria's Multi Arcade Machine Emulator illustrates perfectly the dynamism of the PC arcade emulation scene.

From nothing at all at the start of this year, the 26-year-old Italian programmer progressed in the space of a month to this superbly-featured generic emulator, running code-perfect versions of half-a-dozen games, with more on the way. The base program is so versatile it's also been adapted slightly by other authors to run further games of their own, but the currently-available version of MAME itself is the one we're concerned with here.

The games emulated are all maze chasers in one fashion or another, but all six play very differently. Mr Do was the biggest success outside the two ubiquitous Pacman games, and started a family of games of its own (platformers Mr Do's Castle and Mr Do's Wild Ride, and the wonderfully-named Amidar/Dig Dug hybrid Mr Do Run Run) which should hopefully be running on MAME soon. The original, though, is a likeably bizarre game in which a small pixie tunnels underground for cherries (underground cherries?) and drops apples (underground apples?) on the heads of scary monsters. It's stylish and hectic, and each level is over in about 30 seconds, win or lose, which is something EDGE always smiles fondly on.

This feature can also be found in the super-frantic Pengo (indeed, the game makes a play of it by awarding increasing points bonuses for finishing each level quickly, with the biggest bonus coming if you manage it in less than a blink-of-an-eye 19 seconds), a much more narratively-plausible tale of a penguin battling Arctic snow-bees by sliding blocks of ice at them and, er, stunning them on electric fences before stomping on their heads.

Moving swiftly on, Crush Roller is a brash and colourful painting game, weirdly addictive because you're only ever chased by two enemies, so you can never quite accept it when they catch you. The extraordinarily jarring jingle played at the start of each screen and when you die keeps the player on his toes, also.

Ladybug is the most traditional maze game on display, but still features a fundamental gameplay twist in the shape of the rotating doors which make up half of the maze walls. Only the player's ladybird can move them, but the fiendish enemy bugs combine cleverly to make sure that every time you slam a door on one attack, you suddenly leave yourself vulnerable from another direction, and the non-stop pressure means that the player's heartbeat is soon matching the frenzied pace of the speeding background sound.

This is another technically-lovely emulator with all the original arcade options available, and is, once again, downloadable entirely free of charge. Retro fans have never had it so good.

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