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Mr. Do!'s Castle (Colecovision) artwork

Mr. Do!'s Castle (Colecovision) review


"Taking to heart the accusation that their first title in the series, Mr Do!, was merely a copy of Dig Dug, developer Universal made certain that Mr. Do's Castle bore nary a resemblance to the Atari creation. For instance, in this spirited follow-up, Mr. Do finally surfaces, no longer weaving through underground networks mined out of wavy yellow and green checkered earth. A light bulb clicked on during one of the design team meetings -- "Our hero is a clown, not a gopher!" ..."



Taking to heart the accusation that their first title in the series, Mr Do!, was merely a copy of Dig Dug, developer Universal made certain that Mr. Do's Castle bore nary a resemblance to the Atari creation. For instance, in this spirited follow-up, Mr. Do finally surfaces, no longer weaving through underground networks mined out of wavy yellow and green checkered earth. A light bulb clicked on during one of the design team meetings -- "Our hero is a clown, not a gopher!" they grasped -- and from there they sought to create a game more befitting their circus star.

That's why Mr. Do's Castle is a copy of Space Panic.

Space Panic, credited as one of the earliest platform games and an ancestor of everything from Donkey Kong to BurgerTime, is a 1980 Universal developed arcade game also ported to the Colecovision hardware. In it, a male astronaut wanders an open space structure of platforms and ladders, asked to dig pitfalls to snare amok aliens before bludgeoning them with his spade. Mr. Do's Castle, of course, adds cherries to this formula, the distinct difference between any Mr. Do game and its influences. Mr. Do! added cherries to Dig Dug, and sequels Mr. Do's Wild Ride and Do! Run Run add cherries to Donkey Kong and more cherries to Pac-Man respectively. Other differences exist, but like some sort of clowned calling card, there are always more cherries.

Here Do's cherries are encapsulated in the floorboards of his castle, requiring a conk with his mallet to dislodge before falling and vanishing on contact with platforms below. When collecting the embedded fruits Do wallops gaps in his floor, his inability to jump combining with haphazardly designed structures to create a man-made maze for him to ascend and descend. Falling through these gaps will not harm Mr. Do and often is his only means of escape from the wandering horned monsters that have invaded his tower. Like in the original, Do is tasked to collect all his cherries or dispel all the monsters, whichever comes first.

Again Do's offense is feeble. Although this title no doubt expands upon the ideas of Space Panic, with more complex set-ups featuring ladders that can be switched between ledges, Do can mount no offensive attack. His trusted hammer is only able to hold his foes at bay or, should one of his stalkers get caught in a gap, hammer him down to the floor below. Even this will not eliminate the rival, and he'll be back to his tireless session of walking, getting caught in, and wiggling out of crannies in no time. Do's only hope is crafty use of his surroundings, tricking the bandits under falling blocks, hitting triggers when they're caught in traps and collecting keys to open a wooden door at the summit, which reveals a table turning power-up a la Pac-Man.

Mr. Do's Castle is one of the more bustling retro affairs, with Do and his contemporaries constantly scurrying, but bottlenecks in the structure design combine with duplicating monsters to make it a hassling flight. Often the structures become linear, sometimes because only one ladder exists to reach the above floor, often because blocks have been knocked out of place limiting Do and turning his task into his worst enemy. Smarter players will immediately think to start at the top and work their way down, but enemies divide, change color, and become faster all within the first one to two minutes of play. Mr. Do begins at the base while his enemies filter in from the very top, and assuming he can reach his heights safely, there still won't be enough time before the playfield becomes too hectic for this strategy to come to fruition.

Do has a huge challenge on his hands. He must find a balance of action and wit to not only outsmart his meandering rivals but keep the greatest amount of escape options open to himself. What happens too often, however, is Do finds himself cornered, running up the same ladders and leaping off the same platforms as he bides until an aforesaid bottleneck is clear to pass. Usually he won't survive, as it won't be long before the enemies he keeps felling to lower levels will multiply, able to use each other as bridges over gaps to entrap the clown.

This is Castle's failing. It hardly seems fair how quickly enemies become more ferocious and use each other as bridges, despite an already decisive advantage in numbers, when Mr. Do finds himself evading in looping patterns and not even able to jump to escape. Mr. Do's Castle suggests it was designed with profit as a major motivation, one of its original goals to limit play and suck up quarters. Dying on just the first four to six screens becomes a constant, with headway attributable to luck and memorized technique. The result is an arcade game that isn't much fun, with console ports all the more fleeting and pointless.

How good a port this is depends. Castle's music has been recreated faithfully and the level design is no less elaborate despite hardware constraints. Still, in the arcade game Do is clearly a clown being chased by unicorns, while the action on screen here is downright indescribable. Do is a tolerable as a red-suited character with a pure white face and beady black eyes, yet his chasers are ugly red stick figures with long bobbing hat brims, blurring on ladders and staircases to indecipherable blobs. Perhaps it's smart thinking that the effort here was minimal. Mr. Do's Castle conveys the ideas and action of the arcade game, which regrettably was not an especially strong basis to begin with.

Rating: 4/10

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Community review by LowerStreetBlues (November 03, 2009)

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zigfried posted November 10, 2009:

I somehow missed that you had posted this review, but thank goodness I caught it! I really like the amount of historical insight your reviews provide, while sticking to the point in an entertaining way. Your introduction made me laugh. But it also told me about a game (Space Panic) that I hadn't heard of before. That's pretty damn cool.

//Zig

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