Mischief Makers is nuttier than a common food allergy. It's wilder than a Will Smith song about the Old West. It's zanier than the Animaniacs. And those are the facts. Treasure games are special in that they usually feature a ton of boss fights, they require the utmost in player concentration and dexterity, and they are always a non-stop action packed thrill fest from beginning to end. This 2D action-shaking-platformer is definitely all of the above and more.
Mischief Makers is plain weird. The story is barely important. It can basically be summed up by "there's robots and Clancers and everyone has issues". I don't know why there are hotels, and robot bad guys, and Clancers, and Clanpots, and Athletic contests, and an evil Empire bent on capturing a professor. After playing through the entire game, I couldn't begin to explain half of what was going on with the overall plot line. I know that in order to see the entire last cutscene, you have to collect golden gems, one per level. The final vignette counts down your golden gems, with the amount collected acting as the timer for how much you get to see. I know that I probably won't ever go back to collect them all and see the true end of the story, I can't imagine it'll make any more sense than what came earlier.
The gameplay is quite fun, if not exhausting. Treasure games demand a lot of their players and trying to marathon through one in a sitting must be how long distance sprinters feel after running a five minute mile. My thumbs were wildly flailing across the Nintendo 64 controller in order to guide Intergalactic Cybot-G Marina from the opening of each level to the end, but with practice came confidence. It's actually simpler than it seems, with grabbing, shaking, and throwing all being your basis for attack. All three are performed with one button, a direction, along with the same button again to throw, combined with a direction again for accuracy. It becomes intuitive after the first few levels, and most times I had gotten stuck, it was because I wasn't using the basics. Bosses that had proven difficult and required multiple tries were actually trivial once I learned each weakness and intended progression.
The art and music are definitely some of the best I've seen for the Nintendo 64, as odd as some of the character designs may be. Every world has a varied and distinct theme, although the level geometry can be a bit simple at times when it's mostly made up of blocks with faces on them. The music and sounds are superb for the console, as well as the limited voice samples. Everything sounds pitch perfect and arcade familiar. The sprite work is phenomenal with everything being pre-rendered in 3D and then scanned, similar to Donkey Kong Country. This 'two and a half D' perspective works great with the art and level design, with this run-and-shake game being a little more exploration focused than the traditional run-and-gun games that Treasure had made previously.
Mischief Makers is different. It's strange and off-putting even at first. That uneasiness quickly subsides into a sublimely paced adventure with expansive levels featuring tightly designed gameplay. It's not perfect with a couple puzzles that feel out of place and some trial-and-error boss battles that can become frustrating. The entire experience should not be missed however, by any fan of the console or the genre. Mischief Makers was all-new for me going in and will stick with me for a long time after getting to see the credits roll.