Some time ago a friend of mine mentioned how he still at times breaks out the Super Nintendo to play the game Hook, a platform game based on the movie by the same name. That actually ignited a pang of nostalgia; I myself immediately associated that with the Ocean range of platform games and as such with their (IMHO) greatest achievement, McDonaldland.
Known across the Atlantic as M.C. Kids curiously, it was one of the few games I rented at the local video rental store more than once. Not because like every kid back then you revered McDonald’s and you needed the Happy Meal toys as your life depended upon them, but rather because the game was actually good. Proper good. And now that I’m looking back on it, probably the best licensed game of its time. Which is rather amazing when you think about it (especially taking the NES’s games library into account).
That might sound like gross hyperbole, but in truth it’s actually a rather inventive platform game and (if you squint real hard) a precursor to more modern stuff like Braid and Toki Tori. While you can play the game normally by reaching the end of each level, it won’t help you very much. To actually progress to the next of each of the seven worlds, you need to find a couple of cards hidden throughout the levels of each world.
That’s when the good stuff happens. While the game feels like a hyperactive mix of Super Mario Bros. 3’s platforming with Super Mario Bros. 2’s block-item handling thrown in, it’s also littered with puzzle-elements that Mario only briefly touched upon. The first level for example features a platform with strange gear-like blocks at each end. Running over these full-speed will ‘flip’ you upside down and reverse gravity for you. There are also lots of other platforms and blocks having various effects, which you need to use correctly to get your hands on the scattered cards. Never mind the amount of secrets. Scouring the levels to find them all was good fun.
It also has a very catchy soundtrack which I still hum to myself from time to time. Yes, even now. Though for a few years I had completely forgotten where I remembered the melodies from to start with. Kind of freaky when you find out again.
I always wondered why nobody seemed to recall this as a good game (most seem to slate it). It had all the elements present to make it work, and it actually did, but for some reason nobody bought into it. Even one of the developers doesn’t get its relative failure and I sympathize with him.
Sure, maybe it’s not a NES classic like Super Mario Bros. 3. Sure, it wasn’t easy (it was actually quite hard at times). But the puzzle nature and the high exploration factor made it one of my favourite NES platform games, while simultaneously and arguably being the most wholesome item to be associated with McDonald’s. Ever.