Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mickey's Wild Adventure (PSX) Review

AKA Mickey Mania: The Timeless Adventures of Mickey Mouse [Alternate Nomenclature]1995 Psygnosis/Traveller's Tales/Disney Interactive
Distributed by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe

The first PlayStation was the first TV console I owned, and when I was little I experienced many titles for that console, some admittedly better than others. Mickey's Wild Adventure (widely recognized by many as Mickey Mania) was one of those best games. When I was little, I was such a fan of animated shows (regardless of where they were made), and the cartoons starring Mickey Mouse were one of those countless shows I grew up with, and I thought they were enjoyable. Even today I still find them enjoyable. Everyone knows how back in 1928 Walt Disney created his character Mickey Mouse, who would end up being widely successful throughout the years. Well, not everyone exactly. I've looked up that back in 1935 the Mickey Mouse cartoons were banned in Romania due to the fear that it would frighten younger viewers. Anyway, Mickey's Wild Adventure was I game I highly enjoyed when I was little, and it's just as fun a game to play today. It was first licensed game I played that centered around Disney's mouse, and it was a real memorable one.

The story revolves around Mickey Mouse, who must navigate through several of his most well-known episodes through time. How he manages to time travel is never exactly specified, but then again, there's no real plot here. Mickey will be exploring the worlds of Steamboat Willie (1928), The Mad Doctor (1933), Moose Hunters, Lonesome Ghosts (both 1937), Mickey and the Beanstalk (1947) from the Fun and Fancy Free motion feature, and if you play Hard mode, The Prince and the Pauper (1990), and if you feel really confident, The Band Concert (1935). In each world he'll need to do certain tasks, and if you search the areas thoroughly, you'll find a different version of Mickey Mouse (like he appeared in the certain cartoon). Why it's important, I'll leave up to you to decide. Each episode has great atmosphere, and makes up for the plot. But I don't play the game for the story, I play it for the fun and challenge it provides.

Mickey's Wild Adventure is largely a 2D platformer, taking place in various episodes comprised elaborately designed stages. The controls are pretty solid, as Mickey's a pretty responsive character. His main actions consist of moving, ducking, jumping, and (few times) swinging off on ropes. There will also be times when Mickey attacks his foes with marbles. Be careful when using those, as you do not have an infinite amount of them. You can either jump on enemies or shoot marbles at them to do away with them. Marbles can be collected when you find them scattered about. Mickey has a stamina of five, which is clued in on by the glove symbol on the upper left corner of the screen. Any time you take a hit, a finger will be taken out, but should you sustain damage while the glove has no fingers, you'll lose a life. The only way to refill your health is by finding stars. In the Easy and Normal modes, there will be checkpoints in the middle of the stages, but in Hard mode you have to go through the stage in one go, because if you die on Hard mode, you have to start said stage from the beginning. There are even a couple of stages where you must avoid being squashed by a big enemy that's chasing you from behind, and the only way to keep yourself from slowing down is by munching on apples. Why apples is beyond me. In these chase sequences, it's also customary to avoid tripping on stuff which will impede your speed. Even so, there are various ways of getting through the normal stages.

The soundtrack from this game is pretty nice, and something I never tire of listening to. While none of the songs were lifted from the episodes they were based on, the CD-quality music sure is greatly composed. The first portion of the Steamboat Willie episode has a gentle, simple tune; some songs from the Mad Doctor episode are spooky and dark; the Moose Hunters song is country-filled; and the Lonesome Ghosts songs are spooky. The Mickey and the Beanstalk episode has decently-composed songs. One of them that come to mind is a song that starts out very ominously, and at the moment when it begins to sound very scary it segues to some of the most beautifully epic music I've ever heard in a video game, which makes it my favorite song in Mickey's Wild Adventure. The music in the Prince and the Pauper episode is good, and at times pretty epic-sounding. The regular sound effects are cool, too, like when Pluto barks and when a ghost apparates onscreen. But what steals the show is Mickey's voice. Oh, Mickey, Mickey, Mickey! He has a line on practically any situation he comes across in these stages. His lines are brief and to the point and says it once, and I feel that it's a good thing, otherwise they would be annoying. Some examples of his lines are "Hiya, Mr. Goat!" (upon meeting up with a goat), "Oh, boy! Can't stop now!" (upon being chased by a moose), "Oh, would you look at that!" (upon seeing a wall disappear), "Fireballs!" (upon seeing fireballs pop out of a fireplace), "Gee, I wonder who's in here?" (upon entering a hole leading to the bottom of a cave), and "Gosh, I remember you!" (upon rescuing Steamboat Willie Mickey from an evil crane machine). I feel that these lines, while fun to listen to, add a bit of appeal to Mickey in this game. He even reads the title of each episode before it begins.

The visuals are drawn in colored and detailed 2D style, and I think they look really good. Even today I still think the visuals are pretty to look at. Each episode has stages with a diverse look and feel, and each episode looks like an interactive version of the cartoons they were based on. Steamboat Willie begins in black and white, but eventually the world begins immersing itself in color, which adds sweet eye candy. The Mad Doctor stages have a detailed and gothic look, with some foreground and line scrolling in it to add some depths. The first part of the Moose Hunters episode has a lush foliage with a light color palette that makes it beautiful to look at. Lonesome Ghosts starts outside a house in the middle of the snow, but once you get in weird stuff is going down. The Mickey and the Beanstalk episode is really well-designed, and the cavern portion has parallax scrolling which adds atmosphere and depth. The Prince and the Pauper episode is detailed and looks like something from the medieval times. There's even a tiny bit of 3D in the mix. Some objects might look 2D, while some other objects might be rendered in 3D. The chase scenes have a 3D flat plane which you can run around, with the only things 2D being Mickey Mouse and the big enemy right behind you. That's pretty awesome! Even the tower stages, resembling ones you'd find in the third stage of Super Ghouls'n Ghosts and the first world of Porky Pig's Haunted Holiday, are completely rendered in 3D, save for Mickey and the bats. Considering it came out so early in the PlayStation One's lifespan, that's pretty impressive. The characters and enemies are also nicely drawn. Mickey Mouse animates real smoothly, and I like how colorful he looks. Each episode has a different Mickey character who looks and animates like he did in the cartoons he's representing. To name a few: Steamboat Willie Mickey is always black and white, the Mad Doctor Mickey lights up a match from the shadows (if you find him), and the Mickey and the Beanstalk Mickey flies out of a wine bottle while sitting on its cork. Some enemies you'll have to contend with are skeletons, ghosts, insects, and anthropomorphic weasels. What bothers me the most about Mickey's Wild Adventure is how Mickey Mouse has no tail. Why is that? Mickey is a mouse, right, and mice have tails on them, right? Not in this game. What's even more bothersome for me is that the other variations of Mickey Mouse don't have tails either. It bothers me because I've always seen Mickey with a tail in the cartoons, and a mouse with no tail has no chance of survival. Considering how well he animates, would it have been too hard to animate the tail as well? But I digress. Bottom line is that the various worlds in each episode look very good, and the visuals have aged well.

While the game is not entirely hard, it does offer up a good amount of challenge. In each episode there are obstacles to overcome and enemies to face, and sometimes you'll have to fight bosses. In the game Mickey gets himself in many strange predicaments. One moment Mickey's riding a cart down a room while avoiding deadly traps, and the moment he finds himself being chased by a moose, and after that there will be stairs which turns to slopes, water attempting to flood a house, and even trying to escape a tower from a blazing fire that's quickly burning to the top. There's always something to keep you busy. In the Easy and Normal modes you have checkpoints which make the stages easier to get through, while in Hard mode you must try to get to the end of the stage without dying, otherwise you'll start from the beginning of that stage. During the chase scenes you have to outrun the big baddie, otherwise you'll have to do it over again. There may be moments when you might take a lot of damage, and by then you'll start searching for the health stars so you do not die. There are even lives you could collect, but they're hidden so well in each stage that you'll have to look in places you won't suspect to find them. There are few continues you can use up. Mickey's WIld Adventure presents a cool amount of challenge, while not to the point of it being deviously hard. That's pretty cool. The bosses are decent, especially the one with Pete on Hard mode. Without spoiling anything, it's a type of do or die moment, and he's one boss that has patterns you'll have to pay attention to in order to be successful. So you must be wondering by now: "What of the Band Concert episode?" Well, it's not exactly a mandatory episode, but it's an episode which can be accessed in secret. I won't get into the details, but you'll have to search for a way to unlock it. In it, you must jump up a row of boxes while inside a twister. You'll have to be careful here, because the boxes will move and will require precise timing on your jumps. But what should happen if you fall down? You'll be sent back to the stage which you accessed it with, and will not be given a chance to do it again (until you start a new game). A bit annoying, but something it'll take a long time to master (I hope to someday). One thing I should point out about this game is that, while it has decent length, its stages feel rather short and straightforward. The stages aren't designed in a complex manner, but the interactivity with the enemies and obstacles make up for that.

I love Mickey's Wild Adventure. I loved it back then, and I love it now. I like how much challenge it likes to deliver, even if it's not completely difficult. Some stages I have a bit of a hard time with (the burning tower comes to mind), but otherwise it's pretty manageable. I like its various, colorful worlds and I like how the different Mickeys are in these episodes. It gives a lot of variety. The soundtrack is enjoyable, and there's not a single bad track in the game. Its plot is rather unexplained (why is Mickey Mouse going through these episodes in the first place? The game never explains it; heck, even the manual doesn't talk about it), but the high atmosphere more than makes up for that. I liked how each episode tried to stay as faithful to the cartoon they were based on as possible. In the beginning of the Mad Doctor episode, once you walk through the bridge it starts collapsing, like in the cartoon it was based on; in the middle of Moose Hunters episode, you'll see a couple of mooses duke it out, like in the cartoon; and the Mickey and the Beanstalk Mickey flies on a cork after it pops out of a wine bottle, like in the cartoon. The different Mickeys even have animations similar to those you'd find in the cartoons. The control scheme is also pretty neat. I enjoyed Mickey's lines, though I wish I knew why the developers never bothered to give him a tail. Even if its stages are short, I still enjoy going through the game, as there's more that make up for that. Makes me wonder if the checkpoint marker in the Easy and Normal difficulty modes were a moot point? Maybe it was to make getting through the stages with no problem? Regardless, it's enjoyable and exhilirating. Makes me want to try the other 2D platformers starring Mickey Mouse. This may be interesting to some, but this was the first project David Jaffe (of Twisted Metal and God of War fame) worked on as designer (and quite frankly, I think he's done a fantastic job in that department). This game was originally released for the MegaDrive in 1994 under the name Mickey Mania, soon followed by ports on the SNES and the Sega CD. I've only played the PlayStation version, so I cannot compare between them. All three aforementioned versions of the game were released in North America and Europe, except Mickey's Wild Adventure, which only saw the light of day in Europe and Australia. Makes me wonder why an American release never came to fruition. Either way, this is a game I recommend to fans of Mickey Mouse and fans of Disney in general, for it's got enough challenge for those gamers hungry for challenge.


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