(Review archived from January 25, 2018)
I have a bit of nefarious history with Mickey Mousecapade that I’ve never admitted to anyone … until now. The year was 1988, Christmas time. At this point the NES had been a resident of our household for almost exactly one year (I’d received it as a Christmas gift the year prior). The gifts were wrapped and under the tree in young null’s household, and by this time I knew which one was an NES game. There was no mistaking the size and shape of that distinctive box. The suspense of not knowing what game lay beneath that thin layer of paper was absolutely killing me. So one evening when I knew I’d have the house to myself for a couple of hours, I broke out the X-Acto knife. Carefully and with the precision of a surgeon I cut the scotch tape away from the wrapping paper which I then gingerly folded back to discover … Mickey Mousecapade! It wasn’t without some degree of guilt that I popped it into the NES and played it for a while. Then just as carefully as before I folded it back into the original wrapping paper, placed new pieces of tape over the ones that I had cut, and replaced it under the tree. For shame! What a naughty kid I was. I tell you what though, it was the last time I ever pulled that stunt. I learned a valuable lesson that year. It turns out I much preferred the actual feeling of delight and surprise over the feigned version to which I resorted that Christmas morning. And thus ends this cautionary tale.
So what we have here is the genesis of Capcom’s amazing partnership with Disney during the NES years. This wasn’t a ‘Disney Afternoon’ title as such, because Mickey Mouse wasn’t actually part of the classic Disney Afternoon lineup on TV. Nonetheless this was the first Capcom produced Disney title on NES. And it wasn’t even developed by Capcom, but rather by Hudson Soft. And once you know this fact all the rest falls into place, because this game also feels nothing like the other (Capcom developed) games in the Disney Afternoon lineup. Does this mean that this is a bad game? The answer to that is, well, it depends actually … how much do you like other Hudson Soft games on NES? Because all the hallmarks are here, both good and bad. You have fairly competent controls with floaty jump mechanics … much like Adventure Island. You have elements of inscrutable gameplay relying on the discovery of invisible hidden objects with random placement … much like Milon’s Secret Castle. The graphics are bold, colorful, and good (though not great), but there’s also crazy amounts of sprite flicker at times … much like every Hudson Soft game on the NES. So yeah once the Hudson Soft realization kicks in you pretty much know what to expect from Mickey Mousecapade, not that it’s necessarily a bad thing.
Are there elements that make this game unique then? Well, there sure are; I’m glad I asked. In modern parlance I guess we’d call this a game consisting solely of ‘escort missions’. But that’s not quite accurate, since there’s no AI partner involved. No, you control both Mickey and Minnie simultaneously though separately, and this mechanic gets implemented in some interesting ways. Minnie walks when you walk, jumps when you jump, climbs when you climb, but always at a pace or two behind. So there’s always sort of this ‘1..2’ pacing to your movements. It’s also crucially important to know that only Mickey can take physical damage. This sort of sets up a system capable of abuse (which I suspect was intentional), because since Minnie is always a pace or two behind you can set up situations in which her pathing becomes drastically different than Mickey’s. For instance if a boss is on an upper platform you can start climbing the ladder leading there, and then drop off right at the very top in such a way that Minnie is the only character left up there. Then you can just lay into the boss with no concern of damage (did I mention that she also shoots when you shoot?). All in all this is an interesting mechanic, but it also frequently turns frustrating. When jumping over pits, you need to gauge distance in such a way that insures that both Mickey and Minnie land on the other side (since she’s always a step or two behind). Because despite the fact that Minnie can’t take physical damage, she can definitely fall down into pits and if she does, that means game over for Mickey as well. The game has so many points designed to exploit this fact. Prepare to yell more expletives at Minnie Mouse than the time Donald Duck had a brief stint in N.W.A. Having said all of that, the game isn’t terribly difficult. It really alternates between these moments of extreme trolling (often at about mid level), and boss fights that are incredibly easy for the most part largely due to the exploit I mentioned above. It’s also an incredibly short game even by NES standards. Once you have a feel for it, I’d say that you can blow through this one, beginning to end, in about 20 minutes and even that might be a generous allotment.
So is it worth it? Well despite being a bottom tier Capcom-Disney game (by my estimation), it’s not a bad game per se. It’s a mediocre game with some interesting mechanics rendered mostly forgettable primarily due to its short length. If you love Mickey Mouse or you’re a rabid completionist where it comes to the Capcom-Disney partnership on NES, you’ll probably find something to enjoy here. Short of that I’d advise you to play the other Capcom-Disney games which are demonstrably better than this one.