MISCHIEF MAKERS / Enix / Nintendo 64
I find Treasure to be extremely hit or miss as a developer. Either they make games that I really like - such as Gunstar Heroes for the Genesis and Astro Boy: Omega Factor for the Gameboy Advance - or they make games that I find nothing more than a chore to play. Mischief Makers, unfortunately, falls into the latter group.
Treasure always walks a fine line with their games. On the one hand, they usually have impressive boss battle encounters, innovative control systems and gameplay quirks, and a frenetic action pace. On the other hand, their levels and battles can be way too demanding and perfectionist, and the gameplay systems can get overly cute and complex and become more of a pain to wrestle with than something that flows intuitively. Mischief Makers isn't actually one of their harder games, but the control system is a little more complex than it needs to be, the feel of the controls is really on the clunky side, and they break up their usual fast pace for levels that involve a lot of talking to boring NPCs and re-treading territory.
The setup is typical cutesy gonzo anime - you play as a robotic maid named Marina who has to rescue crotchety old man from Evil Empire made up of lumpy robots. Marina's main form of defense to get through these levels is to swipe a foe with a meaty paw and "Shake Shake!" them until they cough up gems that raise her power levels and such. She can them either set them down gently, in the case of allies, or heave them off into the distance. The whole shaking thing isn't a bad idea but it is handled pretty slowly, you just kind of casually Shake Shake the foe at a lethargic pace. It also would have been a nice auxiliiary ability but seems kinda limp and uninspiring as a main power and focal point of the game. You'll pick up other weapons and ride some vehicles here and there, but the game rarely has the "thrill ride" feel Treasure is known for, meandering along at more of a sedated pace.
Along with the relaxed pace comes a seemingly relaxed aesthetic standard. In the 16-bit and arcade eras, Treasure's games were known for pushing the graphical envelope, and the sound usually wasn't bad either. Here, it's all plasticy Rare-esque pre-rendered sprites none of which are all that inspiring. Marina is a boring character, the Clancers (the robot lumps who make up both the foes and allies of most of the game) are *really* boring for something you have to see constantly. The music sounds like crummy cutting room floor outtakes from Dynamite Headdy and Astro Boy. The game is also peppered with voice clips which will sooner or later get highly irritating.
I am left really uncertain of what Treasure was going for with this one, as with the exception of a few isolated sequences, it totally breaks from their usual pattern of over-the-top breakneck visual festivals, with more of a repetitive puzzler feel reminiscent of games like Equinox and the Adventures of Lolo (just transformed into a side scroller format.) I actually wouldn't be surprised to hear the game wasn't totally finished and was still in the conceptual stages when it was forced out the door. Regardless of what it was, this one is going to be even more niche than the usual Treasure game, and I imagine a chunk of even the devoted Treasure fanbase won't dig it.
* Gameplay Video