It is a new goal of mine to review every Disney game officially released on the NES. There are quite a few titles to get through but the good news is, many of them are quite good! This series will be chronological by release date. So, without further ado:
Mickey Mousecapade (1987)
It’s safe to say the platformer made the NES. If it weren’t for the success of Super Mario Bros. and later additions to the genre, video games would have a very different style and feel today. The NES’s library of quality platformers is as diverse as it is immense and Disney managed to contribute a few of its best. Mickey Mousecapade, however, is not one of those games.
Released a few years into the NES cycle, Mickey Mousecapade takes a novel approach to platforming by having Mickey and Minnie moving together, both being controlled by the player, moving in tandem but separate. Getting a handle on moving around the world and getting both characters where you need them to be is a key element to surviving this game. Minnie is always just two tiles behind Mickey, and all of her actions are on the slightest delay, so timing and planning each move is key. However, this is made particularly problematic in areas with a lot of pits and traps because if Minnie falls, Mickey dies too, even if he clears the gap. Fortunately there aren’t too many areas with lots of pitfalls but where they do exist they are grouped together closely and some are designed in such a way that you can just barely clear the jump, making for some frustrating platforming action. Another point of mercy is that Minnie is actually invincible but still attacks when Mickey does, so this is heavily exploitable for some situations, like the notoriously-broken fight with Pegleg Pete.
Mickey Mousecapade fails in a few other departments as well. It suffers from a serious gameplay imbalance, with enemies and their attacks being far too fast to avoid at times or with traps and dangers being placed at times in places where taking a hit is near-unavoidable. This often happens in the cluttered, claustrophobic indoor stages which play out in a series of rooms. Secondly, is this is one ugly game. The NES was limited in its color palette but many titles on the console did well with what they had, but Mousecapade’s choice to have a pastel, bright palette as it does just results in a hideous piece of Crayola art, as if they decided to set the game inside a Claire’s at their local mall.
That said, in other areas it is actually quite successful. The world design is varied, with some levels being more of a puzzle rather than a straightforward left-to-right trek. Despite the flaws in combat and enemy layouts, it’s also pretty fair in the difficulty area as well, not being too easy or too hard. So, it isn’t all bad.
Mickey Mousecapade is a pretty standard platformer/shooter and while it will certainly not win any awards it isn’t too awful. However, there are just far too many good games just like this in many respects to really justify investing too much time into iit. It is as vanilla as a platformer like this can get but lacks the speed and urgency of Super Mario Bros., or the edge and intensity of Contra. It straddles a safe line in the middle leaving it somewhere just outside of interesting.