M.C Kids

 

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Genre: Platform

Publisher: Virgin Interactive

Total time played: 4 hours

Short review: McDonalds propaganda wrapped up in a surprisingly fun and innovative platformer that is a complete rip off of Super Mario Bros. 3 with graphics that are designed for children who are much too young to fully enjoy this game.


Interesting links related to McKids


 

When I was about 11 years old a friend whose judgement I did not trust told me that M.C. Kids was a really good NES game.  I brushed him off and thought there was no way that a game about McDonalds with kiddie graphics could be any good.

Over 20 years later I finally gave it a shot and was pleasantly surprised. The game is clearly a Super Mario Bros. 3 knockoff featuring a similar overworld map and level layout.  Each level features some pretty innovative and continually changing game mechanics that make it more interesting than most NES platformers.

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Example of a world overview map. Look similar to Super Mario 3 much?

Where the game loses some of its charm is in how the game progresses. The basic story is Hamburglar stole a magic bag from Ronald McDonald and you have to get it back by playing through 6 worlds, each ruled by a familiar McDonalds mascot.  The catch is that you can’t just reach the end of the 6 levels in each world, you have to explore each level and find a hidden card.  Each world requires you to find a different number of cards to move on to the next. If you beat the level without finding the card you will need to play it again…and again…and again until you find it. To make matters worse, the overworld map will show you when you have completed a level, but it won’t tell you if you have found the card in that level. More than once I found myself replaying levels looking for a card that I had already found.

The thing is, some of the cards are hidden really well and I found myself struggling to find them even if the actual stage wasn’t that large.  I think that as long as you reached the end of each stage you should have been able to beat the world and move on. The hidden cards would have been a good bonus feature to add replay value to the game, I didn’t like that it was required to move on.  But, the good thing about this gaming mechanic is that you are never required to beat every stage in a world. So, if you only need 3 cards to progress, you only need to play 3 of the 6 stages in the world. This kept me from having to play some particularly tricky stages throughout the game.

There are unlimited continues, however, if you continue you have to start the world you are on completely over. A couple of times I would have completed 4 or 5 of the 6 stages, found the hard to reach cards and then would get a game over. This would force me to pay all of those stages again.

Luckily, I eventually found a level that featured this little scene:

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I discovered I could pick up one of these extra lives while standing on the other, I would then pick up the second extra life and fall to my death.  But, each time I would do this I would gain one extra life. The best part was that this was the very first scene in the stage so it was about 10 seconds of gameplay to get an extra life.  I would do this over and over until I had 20 plus lives, once I was running low I would come back and do it some more. This kept me from having to ever get a game over and start a world over.

Throughout each level you had a few goals.

  1. Collect little “M” icons that are the equivalent of coins in a Mario game. If you collected 100 throughout the level you would be treated to a bonus game when you beat the stage. If you could beat the bonus game you would earn several extra lives. I only made it to the bonus a few times and never completed it. This wasn’t a big deal as I never ran out of extra lives thanks to the trick I talked about in the last paragraph.

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    Bonus stage I never completed

 

2) Look for the hidden card

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Here is a hidden card

3) Don’t fall into a hole

4) Don’t get hit by enemies enough times to run out of hearts

There were several unique features that make this game better than average:

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This digging looks very similar to Super Mario Bros. 2

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If you run into the little star at the end of the platform you can walk upside down similar to Metal Storm.

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Somewhere in the level is a block to fit into that hole which will allow you to access new areas.

 

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Zippers are trap doors that take you to hidden areas full of extra lives, magic cards or both.

There was even a stage that took place on the moon where the jumping mechanics completely changed and forced you to relearn the controls.

The final world takes place inside a cave where everything is tinted red and there is lava that kills you in one hit if you touch it. The frustrating part is that you can’t tell how much health you have because the heart meter blends into the background. A lot of new game mechanics are added in this world. You are forced to navigate the lava by riding on a lava rock that must be found and thrown in the lava like a boat. Earlier in the game you would do this with a bucket in water but if you fell out you didn’t die instantly. The second mechanic involved floating treadmills that traveled on a track in the opposite direction of the direction you walk.  This took a bit of getting used to. Luckily there were only 3 stages in the final world, however, all three were very difficult.

When you enter the 4th and final stage of the final world you are greeted with a short ride on a lava rock and a couple of runs over bridges were you must outrun a fireball and then greeted with the final boss of the game.

The final boss is fought in the 3 waves, the first you fight what look like sperm in a turtle neck sweater, then a magic wand and then a rabbit in a hat. It took me 20 or so tries to finally beat the three waves and in turn the game.  The sperm and the rabbit were easy but the magic wand was tough and required you to be running full speed and jumping into it holding a rock while avoiding the magic the wand shot at you, it was tougher than it sounded.

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You tell me a better way to describe than “Sperm in a turtleneck”

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The magic wand that gave me so much trouble.

Honestly, if the game wasn’t such a clear ripoff of Super Mario Bros. 3 or wasn’t a money grab for McDonalds and had graphics and marketing that aimed it at an older demographic it could have been a classic game on the system. The difficulty is perfect, it gets harder as the game progresses but never so hard you can’t proceed. The controls are really tight and the music is better than average. Honestly, this is a really good game and everyone should give it a shot, don’t let the kiddie graphics and McDonalds propaganda scare you away.

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