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February 14, 2002
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 Overall Score: *69*ESRB Rating: Kids to Adult (KA)

Mischief Makers [Nintendo 64] 

by Nintendo  Reviewed by: Darren Mitchell  


ScreenshotOverview

It's time to start side-scrolling again! Just when you thought all N64 adventure games were 3D Doom clones, along comes a wild and highly imaginative platform game called Mischief Makers.

Gameplay

In this one-player game you play Marina Liteyears, Ultra-InterGalactic-Cybot G, a powerful female robot, housemaid, and assistant to Professor Theo. While visiting the planet Clancer, the Professor is kidnapped by a band of natives (Clancers) and it's your job as Marina to rescue him. With few weapons at your disposal, you need your wits and your hands to grab, throw and "shake, shake" various objects and enemies.

When you shake things, stuff happens (i.e., grab onto and shake a Clanball and it may give you several Blue Gems for health). I recommend shaking everything you can grab or pick up, since there are hidden treasures everywhere, and you usually need to find them to finish the stage.

Marina has several cool moves besides walking and grabbing -- she can hover, slide, and roll. With so many buttons, though, you may need time before you get the hang of all of them.

ScreenshotOverall the sounds were perfectly suited to the environment, but Marina's constant repetition of "shake, shake" (the only words she seems to say) was cute the first forty times I heard it, but soon became annoying.

The best feature of this game is the bosses. They look and act perfectly -- I usually wasted time studying them rather than trying to defeat them right away. Watch out for those unexpected surprise moves.

Mischief Makers is a great game for people who like to solve challenging puzzles rather than simply run around and shoot at whatever moves. Originally released several months ago in Japan under the name Yuke Yuke Troublemakers (the translation of the game text appears to be the only change), it's easy to see a strong Japanese animation style and influence. Its comic book look and feel makes for a uniquely interesting universe, but the levels are often very frustrating, either too easy or too hard, and rarely in between. I spent four hours in one stage, trying unsuccessfully to grab a high Clanball only to miss and fall all the way to the bottom again. It reminded me of the secret stage in Mario 64, where you fly around high above the castle in a wide spiral to try and get all eight red coins and pick up the star in the middle. If you miss just one coin, you might as well start the stage over again. It took me over 100 tries to finally get it right, and I'll never be able to get that day back for the rest of my life. One star? That's all I get?

Just when you get used to using the Nintendo 64's analog control stick, they take it away from you. Okay, they don't literally take it away, but you don't get to use it here, and I immediately felt a loss of freedom and fluid movement going back to the control pad. It's like driving a Ferrari with a restrictor plate on the engine so you can't go faster than 35 mph. It's fun and looks great, but you feel like you're missing out on something greater.

This game feels like it should have been delayed, like so many other Nintendo titles have been, to enhance the original storyline with a better game engine. I'm looking forward to a sequel, as long as they can figure out how to truly maximize Mischief Makers' potential.

ScreenshotGraphics

I have to admit Mischief Makers is very visually stunning. The Animation segments are solid and quite interesting, and the bosses alone make this game worth trying. Pick any one of the bosses (Merco, Tarus, Lunar, etc.) and give him his own game, and it would be an instant hit.

In every stage you play, almost everything you see has that trademark Clancer-style face on it, looking like little Mr. Potatoheads without any features attached (just empty eye and mouth holes). More like Jack-O-Lanterns everywhere you go, which is nice that they're consistent but it's visually overwhelming.

Mischief Makers is the smoothest side-scrolling game I've ever played, with no noticeable delays or blotchy graphics, due mostly to the 64-bit platform. Still it feels like this is a Super Nintendo 16-bit game in disguise . . . a not-too-convincing disguise.

Bottom Line

Buy this game if you: 1) are fascinated with Japanese style animation, 2) have the urge to own every N64 game that is released, 3) find it on sale for $45 or less, or 4) lost a bet. Otherwise just rent it for the weekend or borrow it from your eccentric friend.

Sorry, but I've been spoiled by awesome adventure games like Mario 64 and Goldeneye. I've seen the future, and I don't want to go back. Side-scrolling is fun, but it's getting old -- I like 180 degree freedom of movement, 3D graphics, 4-player action, the analog stick, the RumblePak, 64DD, and so on. Mischief Makers feels like a step backward, with too many limitations. Still it's pretty good for a nice change of pace, but my pace is running for the goal, baby! No rest stops needed.

 
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