Everyone likes to talk about how great Capcom is for its gems and how it was one of the top three publishers on the Nintendo Entertainment System, but my friends; then there is Mickey Mousecapade. I grew up with Mickey Mousecapades as a kid and it every bit as frustrating and cheap twenty-five years ago as it is now. Cheap in terms of the deaths, the enemy patterns and lackluster level design that makes me think they had time to make two levels out of the five and just threw in a few screens between for the rest.
You play as both Mickey and Minnie Mouse, tethered together with one controller. You’re a team, Minnie goes where Mickie goes. When Mickey leaves a room, Minnie has to be with him and this can turn into an issue because she can stray behind so you’ll need to go back for her. So if you climb a ladder and she doesn’t, you need to go back. If you jump on a platform and she misses, you need to go back. If Minnie falls in a death pit, Mickey will follow her like some sort of love suicide pact.
Because Minnie is with Mickey you’ll need to save some other damsel in distress and in this case, its Alice from Wonderland. She’s being held captive by her old nemesis, the wicked Queen of Harts. What’s that? No; its Queen Maleficent who must be done with Sleeping Beauty and she’s onto other women. Why retread the same ground when you can just shuffle the deck? Just throw in some SquareSoft characters and call it a day.
The game kicks off in a fun house which is both the easiest and perhaps funnest level in the entire game. The house is cut into screens with each screen having two floors accessible by ladders. There are no death pits and its easy to go exploring as you search for a key to unlock a door at the start of the house. Which means once you get the key at the end of the level, you’ll need to go all the way back to the beginning.
Throughout the game you can find extra throwing stars for Minnie and even find a fairy princess that might be a different looking Tinkerbell that grants you invincibility.
In the house you will find treasure chests, the first of which includes Mickey’s weapon… deadly throwing stars. I’ve never seen ninja Mickey, but I’m sure he could be. From there you can break up lanterns and defeat enemies. Inside the lanterns are items like pies to restore your health and diamonds to destroy all the enemies on screen. There are even secret areas to shoot until an item pops out.
Along the way you’ll fight a number of small enemies: spiders, cats, dancing brooms, falling chandlers, jumping chairs and so on. Its your typical easy enemy fare to get you invested in the game. Oh but then come the mini boss and the witch boss who both throw projectiles like there’s no tomorrow.
Once you get out of the house alive, its onto the seashore where your mice need to leap over death pits. One wrong step and you’ll die like rats. This is where the game starts to get cheap and difficult. The enemy placement is timed to get in the way. Waves splash up and throw jellyfish. Birds fly in a deep wave pattern and drop shells. Fish jump, shrimp bounce around in the water and at some point they all come at once to slow the game’s frame rate.
If you can survive, you’ll face a jumping crocodile from the Disney cavalcade of forgotten antagonists. This reptile takes a page out of the witch and cat’s book by throwing projectiles, but this time they’re at different speeds and they bounce. It turns into a maddening brutal boss fight with nothing but your ninja reflexes to get you through it.
The woods come next with a level that is puzzle of sorts with cheap enemies and doors to get from one season to the next. You’re just going through the seasons, replaying the same level fighting against mushroom men, spitting pitcher plants and other foes that sound as if they’re taken from a Mario game. The only way out of this sadistic maze is to uncover a hidden door by shooting a specific tree like the first level taught you how to shoot the air to find things.
From there, its onto Pete’s pirate ship with a thrown together level consisting of four screens; one of which is the boss screen. Its amazing how lazy this game gets. I would cover the level, but its just too quick. The ship is defended by birds, darting pirates and skull throwing scalawags. At the end is captain pirate Pete, who also throws projectiles, but this time, they shift in the air so a knife can come down and stab Mickey in the face. How is does this game avoid its mature rating? No blood I guess. Pete is also one of the easiest bosses due to an exploit that lets you stay safe on a ladder.
The last level is the Maleficent queen’s castle. Its another labyrinth of a level like the fun house first level. The only problem is the stage is full of enemies with erratic patterns and a lot of jumps rather than level floors. Its the culmination of all your skills thus far. You’ll fight previous bosses like Pete and a slew of new bosses that spam the projectiles worse than a spaceship from a shooter.
When each stage starts, you see Mickey walk up to a sign indicating what the level is called. Then he’ll call to Minnie, because she’s always late and he’s always leading her to danger. That’s how they keep their relationship exciting. He takes her on adventures getting lost and murdering things while she’s just luggage toted around like some trophy he can’t leave at home.
Mickey Mousecapade is a brisk game at under twenty minutes to complete, but it took me a long time as a child to get in the groove and overcome the brutality of it. People think Contra is hard, but at least in Contra, the enemies have patterns and you have a real chance to dodge things. This game was put together by someone that didn’t understand that there has to be a logic to a boss fight rather than more projectiles! You’d think the Mickey Mouse license would make this the perfect for children, but the game is too difficult, too fast to be enjoyable.