When I was ten years old, my father, knowing I loved Spider-Man, bought me a box set of Commodore 64 games starring various Marvel superheroes. The collection contained The Amazing Spider-Man, X-Men: Madness in Murderworld, and Captain America and Spider-Man in Dr. Doom’s Revenge.
While I loved each game and played them endlessly they ultimately were too advanced for me. I got fairly far in each but never beat them. It’s something that’s haunted me to this day.
Years later I’ve managed to track the games down. Now as an adult I may not have the near-infinite free time of a ten-year-old kid, I do have years of video game experience to draw from. A cagey veteran who’s seen nearly all the tricks, I was determined to take them on once again.
The Amazing Spider-Man is a puzzle-platformer where you explore connected screens, trying to trigger switches to move on. Spider-Man’s nemesis, Mysterio, has kidnapped Mary Jane and you must navigate the villain’s movie studio lair. Using this theme each screen of the game is pretty random and very different.
I remember the game’s controls being a bit clunky on my Commodore 64 and playing now that memory holds true. Spider-Man doesn’t respond to your commands quickly nor is he very agile. I can see why I never beat the game as it’s exceedingly frustrating. There are checkpoints where the game saves but they’re few and far apart.
This time around I tackled the game with patience I didn’t have as a ten-year-old; the key to my eventual victory. Dying many frustrating deaths I slogged my way through, carefully noting where switches and levers were, and beat the game.
X-Men: Madness in Murderworld was my first exposure to the superhero team; the beginning of a fandom that eventually rivaled my love of Spider-Man. X-Men is an action-adventure game where you control six superheroes as they navigate an evil funhouse, trying to gather parts for a machine that will free the captured Professor Xavier. You battle evil mutants and avoid traps while picking up items to solve puzzles.
The adventure game part of X-Men: Madness in Murderworld is what made it especially unique; you use not only items to get past obstacles but each mutant’s powers as well. Nightcrawler can teleport across pits, Storm can fly, Wolverine can cut through locked doors, etc. I’m pretty sure that’s why the obscure X-Man, Dazzler, was included in the game – her power of light brightens dark rooms.
Replaying this game I quickly saw why I couldn’t handle it at the age of ten. The puzzles ask you to make large leaps of logic. Only years of playing adventure games allowed me to figure them out now. The combat in the game is absurdly difficult; not just difficult but straight up bad. Enemies seem to be able to hit you at will but it’s never clear if your punches against them are actually landing.
Beating X-Men: Madness in Murderworld needed tools I didn’t learn to use until a bit later in my video game playing days: pen and paper. The game world is a huge maze of rooms and making a map as you go is the only way to survive.
Sadly I wasn’t able to find a copy of Captain America and Spider-Man in Dr. Doom’s Revenge. Though that’s not entirely true; I found several emulated versions of the game but the controls wouldn’t work for any of them. The world of Commodore 64 emulators is a murky and frustrating place.
Captain America and Spider-Man in Dr. Doom’s Revenge is a fighting game which progresses through comic book panels – each panel being a new fight with a different enemy.
I would have liked to play it again as it included some almost comically obscure villains. You face, among others, Machete, Batroc, Boomerang, Oddball, Grey Gargoyle, and Eduardo Lobo.
Before taking these games on again I had assumed that I never finished them in part because of my young age; that I didn’t have the video game experience needed to recognize their weaknesses. Going back, however, I soon learned that I had gotten further into each game than I had remembered. Moreover, I saw that while experience ultimately was what was needed to beat them, it was mostly that I needed to learn patience and tricks like making maps.
I’m glad I tracked these games down. The seventeen-year vendetta had to be settled (the feud with Captain America and Spider-Man in Dr. Doom’s Revenge still stands). I had forgotten about how I first heard of the X-Men and it was fun to reminisce about my initial contact with the superhero team. While I’ve found that games from that era are generally harder than games of today, there were ways to deal with them. It just needed many years of playing video games to figure it out.
PS: After playing X-Men: Madness in Murderworld again I love the concept of an adventure/puzzle game using the superhero team. With today’s technology a new game or remake would be awesome. Just saying…
PPS: Three years after I wrote this, I’ve posted a FAQ and map for beating X-Men: Madness in Murderworld, the only one on the internet (I’ve checked): http://blog.patientrock.com/20130414x-men-madness-in-murderworld-walkthrough-faq-aspx/