Reviewed by Scott McCall
We now live in a time when 2-D games are the exception and
not the rule. I have to really think to remember the last 2-D
platformer I played before October 1997 and, furthermore,
the last one I actually purchased. The last 2-D game I played
was a Rayman PlayStation demo that I got in 1996. The last
full 2-D game I actually purchased was Donkey Kong Country 2
back in late 1995. With the onslaught of 3-D games hitting
the next generation systems, there's nothing more refreshing
than playing a good 2-D action game.
Enter Mischief Makers, Treasure's (the guys who made
Castlevania IV, Contra III, Axelay, among others) surprising
entry into Nintendo 64 development. Ever since a group of
development guys left Konami to form their own company,
I have not played any of Treasure's previous games because
they were for Sega systems. Now I know what all the hype
Mischief Makers, fortunately, is not your usual action game.
You take control of Marina, an Ultra-Intergalactic-Cybot-G,
who is on a mission with Professor Theo. The two arrived on
Planet Clancer to respond to an SOS signal. Planet Clancer is
inhabited by a species known as "Clancers." The funny thing
about the Clancer population is that they all look exactly the
same, unlike, say, humans. But while Marina was out on a mission,
Prof. Theo was kidnapped by a group of Clancers. This doesn't
mean all Clancers are bad, however. Now Marina must rescue her
Fortunately for you and Marina, she has an incredible repertoire
of moves that depart from the norm. Rather than jumping on
enemies, her main method is to attack using a "grab, shake and
throw" technique. Here's a summary of her moves: the A button
jumps, the B button grabs and throws, the C group is her rocket
boost (Left C and Right C are dash and Top C hovers), and L or R
is used to talk to people. These various buttons can be used in
conjunction with one another for advanced techniques. For example,
pressing Bottom C twice (or down twice on the Control Pad)
will shake your enemy. She can also slide, roll, hover, dash and
jump various lengths.
The gameplay in Mischief Makers is wonderful -- that is, once
you get used to the control. The initial knock on the game is
that the control is too stiff. I'm not sure if this is more of a
fault of the game or the N64's Control Pad, though. But all it
takes is some practice to get used to. Anyway, throughout each
level, Marina will grab, shake and throw her way to the end. By
shaking enemies (or friends), gems might fall out. Red gems
enable you to continue with a certain amount of energy, blue
gems give you energy right on the spot, and green gems give you
even more health. Finally, there is the elusive yellow gem on each
level. By collecting these, you'll get to see more of the ending.
Additionally, you get a letter grade on each level depending on
how fast you complete it.
What makes the gameplay so great, though, is the tremendous
variety. One level has you finding kids and returning them to
their parents. Another level might just be a race to the end. Yet
another level could extend vertically rather than horizontally.
Another level has you participating in a festival. This sheer
variety keeps the game frantic, fun and exciting. The game
also has impressive mid- and end-bosses. For example, one
mid-boss is a frog and one end-boss is a tank chasing you while
you're riding a cat. And each boss requires an almost ingenious
way to beat it. Some other facets of the gameplay include a
special "Clanpot" to combine items to make a new item, a
tricycle which must be ridden at times, and even a completely
different character, Teran, who must be used on several stages.
Graphically, Mischief Makers is a mixed bag. The game uses a
combination of pre-rendered graphics and polygons. Most of the
levels contain either one style or the other, with pre-rendered
2-D graphics obviously being the main attraction. While the
pre-rendered graphics are pretty nice, there's not as much
parallax scrolling, animation or general action as one might expect
from a 64-bit system. The 3-D polygons, however, are pretty
impressive for a 2-D game. Disappointingly, it should be
noted that there is some minor slowdown.
The aural elements of Mischief Makers are quite impressive, in
my opinion. Since music on the N64 has been lackluster even
compared to a lot of music on the SNES, I thoroughly enjoyed the
sound in Mischief Makers. First of all, as seems to be the case
with a lot of N64 games, there is a lot of voice. Marina has
Mario 64-like comments such as "Let's go!" and "Stoooop!" The
professor has a great cry for help, too: "Help me, Marinnnnaaaaa!"
And some of the opponents you'll face later on (Lunar, Tarus and
Merco) have full sentences of speech. Second, the music is almost
indescribable. Although some will get annoyed by it, I found it to
be quite enjoyable, as it's definitely a departure from the usual
Of course, Mischief Makers is not without its flaws. First, the
game has a very vibrant and noticeable Japanese flair to it.
This is obviously not a negative for import fans, but it could be a
problem for those who do not like games deep in Japanese culture.
Second, the game is too short and easy. The game does have
five worlds with 10 levels in each (50+ levels in all), but half
of the levels are either boss levels or can be completed in
several minutes. The addition of yellow gems and letter grades
do help somewhat, but they don't provide as much replay value as
the secrets in a Mario game. Third, Mischief Makers' control is
just not as smooth as it should be. It can be frustrating for
a beginning player to learn how to navigate the numerous
"Clanballs" that are found early on in the game.
Nevertheless, Mischief Makers is probably one of the better
2-D games ever developed. It's not quite up to par with Miyamoto's
2-D games, but it's an extremely fresh, rewarding and enjoyable
experience in this age of 3-D games. If you're a fan of 2-D
gaming, this is a great way to pass time until Yoshi's Story arrives.
Graphics: 3.9 out of 5
Sound: 3.8 out of 5
Control: 3.1 out of 5
Gameplay: 4.1 out of 5
Lastability: 3.4 out of 5
Overall: 3.9 out of 5