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Mystery Quest (NES) artwork

Mystery Quest (NES) review

"The thing is there's very little I can do to make this game sound interesting. It's so incredibly simplistic that it's boring. Having to guess your way through half of it doesn't improve the experience. In fact, between fighting off the torpor brought on by uninteresting gameplay and managing your frustration caused by irritating jumps, you'll more than likely find yourself in a rage quit situation before too long."

Mystery Quest asset
Joe's Contribution to Review a Bad Game Day #4 - Mystery Quest

Looking into the cute, determined face of the protagonist, I feel like a monster taking his game to task. In all honesty, I have very little to say about the Super Mario Bros. clone that is Mystery Quest. It's not that the game sports incredibly faulty physics or crippling play control. Heck, it's not even that the game is a clone. It's much simpler than that, actually. The game is guilty of not trying hard enough. It's bloody apparent when you start, and it'll still be apparent when you shut it off and put the game away.

You begin in an environment similar to SMB. There's a bright blue sky that just about pervades the screen, broken only by occasional background buildings. Littering the skies are basic blocks, only these cannot be bumped or broken. You take the role of the cute capped hero Hao, whose mission is to find four talismans to prove his worth as a master wizard. The only thing stymieing Hao's progress is Mother Nature. Scorpions wander along the path, minding their own business. Snakes slither at breakneck speed, afraid of the approaching wizard apprentice. Innocent hedgehogs dart him in fear, knowing they will fall victim to Hao's magnificent super power--lethal bubble projectiles!

These outdoor scenes don't take full advantage of the game's physics. Seldom will you run into a tricky jump or a rough spot that demands timing and skill. You run to the right, gun down some hapless animals, find the occasional star to increase your constantly depleting vitality, and eventually move on to a castle.

Mystery Quest screenshotMystery Quest screenshot

You might expect the similarities to SMB to really pick up here, but the truth is this is where the two part ways. The castle segments were the developer's way of trying to break free from the norm. Here is where your guessing skills will be put to the test. You don't get any instructions or clues as to where to go. You run aimlessly up and down halls, trying doors and shooting walls to see if any of them are weak. Some weak walls will give you access to other areas (i.e. more doors and hallways), while others will reveal special items. The Roll of Magic, found in the first castle, will upgrade your bubbles to powerful magic waves. Another area gives you a special pair of shoes that can break weak bricks when you jump on them.

Unfortunately, guesswork is the biggest factor in getting through these stages, especially the later ones. There are some castles that are so convoluted that you need to exhaust every possibility, shoot or jump on every little brick. One single brick below your feet could be the one that leads you to correct series of doors, and eventually to the exit. All of this just to find a talisman, leave the stage, and then begin the process anew. There are no intense boss battles, very few scenes with exciting combat, and no thought-provoking puzzles. You just guess your way to the exit, one brick at a time.

Mystery Quest tried to make up for the lack of excitement by including some tricky platformer sequences that require precision. There's one in the first castle where you must gather momentum and use a springboard to launch you across a small moat. From there, you must shoot a wall and receive an SOS, an item that automatically saves you from drowning by shooting you out of the water. Using the SOS, you must rocket yourself up to higher ground, and from there gather momentum to jump onto another springboard and reach a much loftier area. For every enjoyable platforming scene, though, there's one that just plain annoying. I remember one in a later castle where you have to gather speed and attempt to jump through a tight space between the ceiling and a brick. Timed just right, you'll slip through the gap, land on a springboard, and jet to safety. Screw the pooch at any point and you'll either hit the ceiling and need to start over, or land in the water and die.

Death at any point spells game over. Thankfully continues are infinite, so dying is just a minor setback. Nonetheless, it's irritating when you're most of the way through a castle and you biff it on a jump and drown. Many of the jumps feature a moat right next to a springboard, or at very least placed in the worst possible position. Putting it lightly, you will die a lot, and you will start over a lot, and you will most likely swear a lot. Bear in mind that you'll have to complete this entire quest in one sitting, because there are no passwords. If you don't burn out before the third castle, then you've got the patience of a saint.

I'm sure you're yawning right now. I know because I am, and I'm the one writing. The thing is there's very little I can do to make this game sound interesting. It's so incredibly simplistic that it's boring. Having to guess your way through half of it doesn't improve the experience. In fact, between fighting off the torpor brought on by uninteresting gameplay and managing your frustration caused by irritating jumps, you'll more than likely find yourself in a rage quit situation before too long. And why not? It's not as though there's anything enthralling about Mystery Quest. You might learn through this experience that there is one precious commodity that you can't afford to throw away: time. Anything this game does effectively, or even serviceably, is done much more effectively elsewhere. If you're an NES player like I am, then you don't need a list of great platformers. You have a whole flippin' library full of them! Playing games like Mystery Quest means more time wasted, which means less time spent playing something worthwhile, or even just experiencing life. Avoidance is therefore preferable.

Mystery Quest screenshot


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (August 08, 2012)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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dagoss posted August 14, 2012:

That screen shot at the end explains why the music sounds like a cat drowning. The comparison to SMB is totally apt; I didn't really see it before. I was aware of this game and just new that it as pretty bad, but that was about it. After watching a video to refresh myself (as I don't own this), I couldn't help but thinking that the 1st level looked like a child's rendition of SMB's colorful graphics in MS Paint.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted August 17, 2012:

I had a hard time nailing down exactly what I didn't like about this game. I played it repeatedly, staying up late and engaging in veritable marathons trying to figure it out. I eventually put a stop to that for fear of my sanity. Yeah, this game is terrible, and I think presentation is part of why. The other part is that it's about as dull as any game can get.
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SamildanachEmrys posted August 17, 2012:

In addition to the Mario-ness, the little seems to be dressed a lot like Link, at least on the cover.

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