Liam’s Game Room #16 (Mickey Mania, SNES)

Introduction

Mickey Mania is a side scrolling platformer game released in 1994 for the SNES and Genesis and later in 1995 for the PS1 under the name “Mickey’s Wild Adventure”. The game was developed by Traveller’s Tales and published by Sony Imagesoft. This was one of Sony Imagesoft’s final releases as it was dissolved in mid 1995 and merged to create Sony Computer Entertainment America, which published and developed games for Sony’s Playstation platform. Traveller’s Tales would later one be purchased in 2007 by Warner Bros as an expansion of the company’s gaming decision and would develop modern generation Lego games.

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Mickey Mania was planned to be released in 1993 to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the release of Mickey Mouse’s first ever animation Steamboat Willie, which is originally released in 1928 but development delays meant it didn’t get released until the following year.

Story

The story of Mickey Mania is that the player is revisiting different cartoon shorts throughout Mickey Mouse’s history and trying to defeat the enemies that he encountered in these cartoons. Major cartoons throughout Mickey’s history from his first ever cartoon, Steamboat Willie in 1928, all the way to the most recent cartoon that was released before the game, which was The Prince And The Pauper from 1990.

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I think that this approach to Mickey Mania is definitely a very good one because fans of Mickey Mouse who are more familiar with his motion pictures than his short cartoons can familiarise themselves with where Mickey Mouse originated. However, the fact that none of Mickey Mouse’s major motion pictures are mentioned and this could have been a licensing issue because wasn’t developed by Disney, but instead was distributed by Disney. What this could have meant is that there were some restrictions on what cartoons the developer could use and maybe the cartoon shorts might have been easier to develop for.

Gameplay

Mickey Mania is a side scrolling platformer where Mickey has to reach the end of the stage to progress onto the next screen. The game is split into 6 different cartoons, all of them spanning Mickey’s 75 year history at the time and all of the cartoon having their own feel to them, making each cartoon feel like entirely different games. However, the problem is that not all of the cartoons have boss fights, meaning that some of the cartoons just end, which makes them feel either out of place or somewhat rushed.

The graphics of the game look fantastic with each screen of the game looking like it came directly from the original cartoon. The sprite of Mickey Mouse looks fantastic and his ears bounce as it travels across the screen. This might be an extremely small detail, but this game is full of small details, which really add to how amazing the game looks. The screen scrolling is perfect and is absolutely seamless, with no popping in the background and no details that look out of place.

However, whilst the graphics and the aesthetics of the game look great there are quite a few major glaring problems with the game that really affect the experience I had with the game. The first problem I had was the fact that the game was really difficult even in the early levels the first time I played the game. The game isn’t difficult due to the fact that there are difficult platforming sections or really challenging boss battles, but more due to the fact that every enemy in the game is on a timer in a set pattern.

Patterns are when the player begins the screen, all enemies begins what are called patterns or cycles, which the game activates and the behaviour of the enemies and objects is based on this timer. Now the player won’t see this timer as it is ran by the code of the game and this code can be manipulated by the actions of the player, which means that these enemies on cycles will change based upon the actions of the player. For example, if a player defeats an enemy on the screen.

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The problem with the patterns in Mickey Mania is that for a new player is that the player will assume that the patterns will be completely random and will assume that the enemy behaviour will be different, when in fact the enemies will have one set pattern. Sometimes learning the pattern of the enemies is extremely difficult, especially in the final few screens where the patterns even for speedruns are very difficult to learn.

This annoying difficulty is made much worse with the fact that only allows 1 continue, which has the same amount of lives at the amount chosen at the options menu.  If the game allowed the player to restart from the world that they lose their last life in, then the lack of lives and continues wouldn’t have been an issue at all. The issue is the fact that if the player loses all their lives and uses their continue, then after that continue the player will have to start the game over from the beginning. The game also feels like the player has to go through trial and error just to progress.

Even though the difficulty is really high, once the player knows what to do Mickey Mania ends up being a really short game and also a disappointing game. The problem is that there are only 3 boss fights in the entire game across 6 worlds, one in world 1, one in world 2 and then no boss until the final world. What this means is that worlds 3-5 feel quite unfinished and borderline filler content to make the game not as short as it could have potentially been.

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The final major problem with the game is that some of the screens in the levels are extremely short with some of the screens being as short as 30 seconds. The issue is that if the levels were linked and not on separate screens then the game would end up being a lot shorter than it is. The game has a whole just feels very short considering the fact that the game is linear and doesn’t offer any secret levels that the other versions do. The other versions of the game also rectify this issue by having more screens to some worlds and also secret levels, which the SNES didn’t have due to restrictions on the cartridge size.

Music

The music in Mickey Mania is really good with each world having a set of very distinctive feeling, which captures the mood of the world really well. For example, world 2 called The Mad Doctor has some mysterious themes, as well as some themes which are extremely hectic. The music in this way comments very well based upon the enemies, the background and also the style of the cartoon. Another example, is that the first world called Steamboat Willie has very upbeat themes, which creates the feeling of Mickey as a character, which is happy-go-lucky.

The clarity of the music is where the game really excels compared to the Genesis version. The Genesis soundchip meant that the orchestral elements of the SNES version couldn’t be recreated very well because the Genesis soundchip wasn’t as powerful and was more geared to the synth sounds. The SNES soundchip had more channels, was more powerful and also allowed for sampling of sounds, which allowed the SNES soundchip to create the rich and vibrant orchestral sounds featured in this soundtrack. The clarity in the SNES version is fantastic and has aged very well because the drums are crisp and clean and the orchestral elements are really clear and easy to distinguish from one another.

The quality of the individual theme and soundtrack as a whole is spectacular and really plays well alongside the visuals. The music when it needs to be is big and wide, especially in the final world The Prince And The Pauper, with a marching march drum beat underneath the trumpets. The bass in this specific theme is not overpowering and really allows the higher register orchestral elements to breathe and make the theme feel larger than life.

Another example of a great individual theme is the first screen of Mickey and The Beanstalk, where the theme is much more relaxed compared to the other themes. However, the composers did an fantastic job of making the themes alongside the white, cloudy background create a feeling of wonder. The theme even though simple, works perfectly also alongside the tree like platforms in the foreground.

Conclusion

Mickey Mania SNES has amazing visuals, stunning looking sprites and soundtrack that plays very well in accentuating this elements of the game. However, the gameplay is extremely frustrating and unforgiving to the point of the player having to repeat large sections of the game over and over again. The game ends up being both a test of the player’s patience, how quickly the player can learn the enemy patterns and also trial and error for the sections later on in the game.

Sadly, the game feels like wasted potential because it feels like there was so much effort put into the gorgeous looking visuals and beautiful soundtrack, but the developers forgot to put a game that is enjoyable. If the game wasn’t so infuriating and was more accessible for younger audiences, which I feel the game was because of Mickey Mouse, the game would have been more fondly remembered. The gameplay flaws are too apparent to make either the music or great visuals rescue the game from being a classic, instead of being mediocre.

6/10

Copyright ©2016 Liam Piper. All Images Used Under Fair Use

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