(Mysterious Adventure of Michael)

This is an action game which Michael the bear go on adventure. Let's go on adventure in a various world and collect dream-stars.

With five releases in the span of two years, HUNTERS is I believe tied for second with Winglay and just under dot zo games among Japanese developers for having the most titles out on Xbox Live Indie Games. Just as with dot zo games, HUNTERS has shown steady improvement with each release, though not to the degree dot zo has. Whereas dot zo appears to focus on gameplay first, using minimalist graphics for its games, HUNTERS wants to deliver to whole package and has done so with mixed results. マイケルの不思議な冒険 (Mysterious Adventure of Michael) continues this trend, delivering an old school platformer of reasonable length and style but one whose loose and inconsistent control and high degree of difficulty is sure to turn off some. Dyed in the wool platform fans -- the kind who've gotten S-ranks in Yuke Yuke!! Troublemakers, all red coins in Yoshi's Island, Golden God status in Super Meat Boy, and so forth -- will love what Michael offers, and that will be the test of whether or not a player can look past the game's stated but workable control flaws and enjoy the game for what it provides, a mostly enjoyable retro platform experience.

Mysterious Adventure of Michael greatly expands upon the visuals of previous HUNTERS games. There's not a single instance of originality in these graphics, but they are bright and and clean, representing a hodge podge of designs culled from past classic platformers such as Super Mario Bros., Wonderboy, and Alex Kidd. There are clear moments where the game appears to ripoff established titles such as the "$" boxes which can be hit from below to produce coins, the bouncing the breakable blocks, and the kickable turtle shells; but these instances of wanton tracing are few and far between, never dominating the landscape of Michael's world. Even in the ghost house levels which Mario fans are likely to view as a further ripoff feel no different than any haunted themed level in any past platformer, its ghosts enemies exhibiting none of the trademarks of Boo's design or behavior. Animation such as Michael the bear's run cycle is limited to a couple of frames, and the game restricts itself to fixed horizontal or vertical scrolling. HUNTERS, either by design or (more likely) due to the limitations of the developer, takes us back to platforming in the early 80's, all of the charm, out-dated graphics, and frustration intact.

That's not to say that HUNTERS avoids modern concessions. The player's progress is saved for resuming later on, and Michael himself has unlimited lives to take on each level. The Mysterious Adventure departs from a hub world, and although players must still complete each level sequentially, they are free to revisit past stages and tackle any of the eight unlockable EX stages at will. The main game boasts 20 levels including five boss fights, and a secret boss is revealed once Michael obtains all 50 coins found in all available levels. Apart from these boss encounters, the game will bestow invincibility to the player should he or she die five times in a given stage via a hamburger which appears at the start of the level. "Are you all right? Michael. You eat this and Cheer up!" The magic floating hamburger makes coin collecting a bit more bearable since the later levels are plenty tough as it is without having to deal with enemy interference as well.

Even with the hamburger and being able to outright ignore the enemies, Mysterious Adventure of Michael is a tough beast to tame thanks to its stiff and sometimes wonky control. Michael can run and duck, letting him slide right under blocks too low for him to pass standing upright just like Mario. Holding jump after stomping on an enemy or "!" block lets him jump higher than usual. These are all rote platform manueavers but Michael's sprite box isn't granted that bit of leeway found in the best platformers when it comes to landing on the edge of a platform and sticking the landing. Everything must be precise. Enhancing the frustration is the game's penchant for forced scrolling levels; the scrolling is the fastest I've seen in levels of this sort, leaving little room for error. There's the aggravation to be had when the game wants the player to make a blind leap from the top of the screen, leaving the visable portion of the display, and dealing with low blocks which can seem impossible to slide under to gather the nearby coins in time before the screen pushes Michael away. It's not that Michael is a bad playing game but rather one which is rough around the edges. NYAN-TECH aside, it's never good when a game's control scheme increases the challenge of playing a game, and that's where players will butt heads with Michael. Whether or not the playable but flawed control will put players off is tough to judge, particularly in light of how challenging the game can be later on, but aside from a couple of instances I found it fine enough for me to enjoy the game.

Platform masochists, which going from what kinds of platform games we seen nowaways should account for most of the genre's fanbase, will find much to enjoy playing Mysterious Adventure of Michael. It's challenging enough with a hamburger, and I shudder to think of the hairs lost trying to collect all the coins vegan. I think back to how I wanted to kill something when, after reaching the end of EX 1 and gathering 49 of the 50 coins, I plummeted to my death on a blind jump for the 4th time that session, but I kept on playing. Just as with Super Meat Boy, the level design is short enough to make the challenge tolerable and encourage that "just one more" feeling found in the best video games. I'd never lump Mysterious Adventure of Michael in with any of the best platformers, sure, but it does exhibit some of the better design traits found in such games. HUNTERS has yet to arrive as a top notch developer, but Michael proves to me that it's clearly on the right path.

December 19, 2011
December 17, 2011 | 80 points
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