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Mischief Makers

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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 was about. 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 professor! 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 techno fare. 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

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