Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Game Review: Mickey Mania (Sega Mega Drive)

Developed by Traveller's Tales and published by Sony Imagesoft in 1994

Video games featuring cartoon characters, particularly those from the Disney pantheon, were a prevalent and successful genre throughout the days of the 16-bit consoles. With bright colours, family-friendly gameplay and a wealth of material to draw upon, they were an easy sell to gamers and, invariably, were among some of the best games available.

As I recall, there was a fair amount of hype surrounding Mickey Mania: The Timeless Adventures of Mickey Mouse in the run up to it's launch. With bold graphics and detailed animation, the game was intended to be as close to an interactive Disney cartoon as possible.

The game stars Mickey Mouse who revisits some of the most famous cartoons from his past. Each of the game's levels features artwork, characters and themes from each cartoon, including a version of Mickey as he appeared in the animated feature.

The game launched on the Sega Mega Drive and SNES initially, with an enhanced version for the Mega CD appearing slightly later. Traveller's Tales would re-release the game for the Sony PlayStation in 1996 under the new title of Mickey's Wild Adventure, featuring enhanced graphics, animation and even better audio than the Mega CD version. I'll be releasing videos of each of these versions over the coming weeks, so you'll be able to compare the strengths and weaknesses of each version.

The game itself is fairly typical run 'n jump platform affair where Mickey must navigate his way through a series of interconnected levels, defeating enemies by jumping on them and collecting power-ups to stay alive. In addition to the usual "butt-stomp" method of dispatching opponents, Mickey can also collect and throw marbles to deal with foes at range.

The game features excellent controls that are responsive and simple to master. The developers added a slight sense of weight and momentum to Mickey as he moves in believable fashion, yet leaves the player in total control. I've played many platform games where poor controls lead to many a frustrating death, but I'm pleased to say that this is not the case with Mickey Mania.

As previously mentioned, the game features some excellent graphics and animation for the time. The main Mickey sprite boasts and impressive number of frames for each of the character's animations, really giving the sense that this is proper Disney cartoon and not just a video game. Attention to detail is extremely high as you'll see that the animators even included the streaks and lines typically added to convey the sense of rapid motion when a character moves, which is a really neat touch.

The game also features a decent soundtrack (Matt Furniss) and there are some great digitised speech samples from Mickey as he reacts to what is going on around him. Obviously, the CD versions of the games are even better in this regard, but the Mega Drive version sounds really good.

It is with a slight sense of disappointment, then, that the actual gameplay is somewhat run-of-the-mill; this is no Donkey Kong Country or Super Mario World. I feel that the level designers struggled to create enough material for some of the levels (Moose Hunters), whilst others drag on a little too much and begin to outstay their welcome (Mad Doctor). The game is solid enough, but there really isn't much variety beyond avoiding enemies and making it to the end of the level.

Ultimately, the game is still a solid platform game that you'll enjoy, particularly if you're a fan of Disney characters. If only more time had been spent on content and gameplay than the artwork then this would be one of the best 16-bit platform games available.

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