Mickey's Adventures in Numberland (NES) review
"Scattered throughout the various locations are magical digits. If Mickey brushes into them, they're added to his inventory. More frequently, you'll find them sealed in a box you must destroy. If for some reason you forget what a given number looks like (which would be pretty dang stupid of you, considering the current desired number is displayed near the bottom of the screen), Mickey will brush against it and shake his head disapprovingly."
Pete can be a real butthead. Here Donald is, trying to make a good sheriff, and Pete runs off with the ten magical number molds. I know. I was shocked when I heard about it, too. Of course, as Mickey Mouse, you're not about to let such scum run free. To put an end to Pete's dastardly ways, you go on what Hi-Tech no doubt billed as a magical and educational adventure. Unfortunately, it turns out this particular game is neither magical nor educational. It's just lame.
At least, it is for adult gamers. For starters, Donald appears only on a few screens when you retrieve the number molds. It's a bit role for the best character in the Disney library. All he does here is let you know how many more you have to gather.
Gathering the molds is of course the whole point of the game. When you first begin, Mickey appears on an overhead map of sorts that consists of precisely one screen. There are five icons on the map, each of which represents a zone. Only four of them may be reached initially; the fifth is blocked off by an impassible strip of grass. It is only unlocked once you've done well enough that only the final two molds remain.
With that being the case, you will have to choose one of the other four. Each of these zones is comprised of two levels. When you enter a level, the game tells you which number mold you need to grab, and then you go about your merry task. Scattered throughout the various locations are magical digits. If Mickey brushes into them, they're added to his inventory. More frequently, you'll find them sealed in a box you must destroy. If for some reason you forget what a given number looks like (which would be pretty dang stupid of you, considering the current desired number is displayed near the bottom of the screen), Mickey will brush against it and shake his head disapprovingly.
Of course, there's worse to fear than a mouse's frown. Namely, paintings, statue heads, birds, phones, and falling wrenches. I know this is meant to be a child's educational game, but villains like those make me fear I'll pee my pants. Fortunately for players, there aren't many of those things scattered throughout a given stage, so avoiding them is rather simple. In fact, I never died as I played through the game. I'm not entirely sure it's even possible to do so.
Because things are so simple, you'll probably be able to blaze through things quite rapidly. Fortunately, there's more to do than just collect the numbers. You can also collect glowing red orbs. These are tallied at the end of a given stage, along with any stars you may have collected when busting open crates to grab those numbers. Get enough at once and... nothing happens. Mickey just tells you what your bonus score is, then you move on to the bonus round.
These little bonus rounds are the only area of the game that's remotely educational. There are a few variants, but mostly they involve picking the order in which numbers would appear on a ruler, or what four and three equal. Put everything together properly and you get back one of the missing number molds (which should be enough to excite anyone). Mess up, though, and Mickey will frown and you'll have to try again. In this manner, the game rewards even random guesses. There's no true penalty for totally screwing up. Just try repeatedly and you'll do fine.
I'd like to say the game has a lot of strengths, but it really doesn't. Though you can choose from three difficulty levels, even the toughest of them won't give you much trouble if you're a moderately good player. But this game isn't meant for hardcore gamers, and everyone who plays it will know it. Instead, it's aimed at children.
As such, I suppose it's not the failure it could be. Though the educational elements are negligible, at least there are some good production values. Most noteworthy of these is the sound department, which has several very small voice clips. It's a kick to hear a muffled version of Mickey's voice pronouncing the numbers or telling you that you've done a good job. It probably took up most of the space on the cartridge to manage the effect, but I'd be lying if I called it anything less than a success.
The visuals are also quite good in places. The opening scene shows Pete making his escape with his booty, and it really is one of the best animations I've seen from the system. Mickey himself is also well animated as he dashes about the stages, leaps up stairs, or plays with a ball when you leave him idle for awhile. On a more sour note, the environments are quite bland with very little color variation. There's also a lot of flickering whenever much of anything appears on the screen, something that would be a problem if there were more enemies.
In the end, then, deciding just what to think of Mickey's Adventures in Numberland proves quite difficult. On the one hand, it only barely succeeds at the core objective of providing an entertaining and educational platformer for the system. On the other, the developers at least made an honest effort that should keep children engaged longer than perhaps is warranted. The fact that it's simple doesn't hurt, either, not when the target audience will barely be able to hold an NES controller. Therefore, despite the score I'm giving the game, I'd say it's worth snagging if you find a cheap copy somewhere. Let it educate your children, then use it as a paperweight.
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Staff review by Jason Venter (March 24, 2004)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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