Thursday, December 13, 2007

Milon's Secret Castle

Developer: Hudson Soft
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: 1988
Systems: NES, Wii Virtual Console (reviewed)
ESRB Rating: E
Official Web Site

In a nutshell: Frustrating platforming puzzling at it's finest least fine.

0:01 So I'm bending my own rule a little here because I have played this game before, during a short rental back in 1989. Since that was about 18 years ago, I feel like I can play it again today with fresh eyes. The title screen shows the top of a castle and a blue sky background. GAME START!

0:02 Running along outside the castle, there are three doors I can go in. If I lolly-gag too long bolts of lightnings start following me.

0:03 Controls are simple enough. A jumps, B shoots little bubbles that go forward and up slightly, (or down slightly if you hold the down button). Walk long enough in one direction and you start running, which makes your jump farther.

0:04 I get hit by one enemy four times in rapid succession and it's game over. What the hell! I know games were harder back then, but DAMN!

0:05 Starting over, I kill an enemy and he turns into an umbrella that floats away before I can grab it. Now that's good design. Also, shooting random bricks turns them into money signs. I've got $10 so far. This must have seemed impressive when I was eight, now it seems kind of laughably small.

0:06 Whoo. I find an energy-restoring/expanding item hidden in a block! Good thing too, 'cause I was down to one health unit again. I like the little "doot-dootle-doo" music that goes with it.

0:08 So I've got a key and $16, but I can't buy my way out of this room. HELP!

0:09 Hmm... apparently shooting a bubble in JUST the right spot in the upper right corner uncovers a door out. Intuitive! Back outside, I try door No. 2. It's a shop. I buy some sort of potion for $5. "Shrink when you touch the glove." What? I also get some free hints. "Find a saw" and "Crystal has Mysterious Powers." Words to live by if I ever heard them.

0:11 This time I got the umbrella! I have no idea what it did, but still, I got it!

0:12 This room has a lot of climbing. I can't make the apparent jump, but I can destroy a portion of the upper wall and jump through it. I think this is where I always got stuck as a kid.

0:15 So I find some holes in a staircase, but I can't get to the money hidden within. Suddenly, I'm dead, hit by the same monster about five times in rapid succession. Whoever made this game never heard of temporary invincibility? Oh well... time to start over... AGAIN!

0:16 I find a Hudson bee that gives me a bubble shield! Woohoo!

0:17 Things are going a bit faster now that I know what I'm doing. I find the key and get out of room No. 2. OK... now what.

0:19 This game is a travesty of design. There's absolutely no indication of what you're supposed to do or where secrets might be hidden. It's just guess and check fest. Ugh.

0:21 Wow... that's tricky. The only way to advance involves jumping, turning midair, hitting some bricks with bubbles, then jumping into the small gap you made, then doing it all over again. No wonder I got stuck as an eight-year-old.

0:23 Upon further exploration, all that trick did was get me access to a dollar. Whoo?

0:25 I keep accidentally going out through the door out of the room as I explore. Why yes, that is annoying, thank you for asking.

0:26 Still no freaking clue what these umbrellas do. Nor do I know how to use that potion I bought. On the plus side, I've destroyed this same green dragon thing about 50 times now.

0:27 I've hollowed out a good portion of this stairway, but still nothing I can get to. Annoyingly, the blocks only seems to disappear if you hit them JUST RIGHT, so I'm never quite sure if I missed something or not.

0:30 I reached a new platform! By running down the stairs and jumping just right, I've now gotten a bit higher. Yes, this is an achievement in this game. Unfortunately, I'm still equally stuck. Just higher.

0:31 Dead again. I've been playing for 15 minutes since my last restart, but I've probably lost only five minutes of "progress."

0:32 I believe I may kill myself if I have to listen to this calliope music anymore. Dah, dah dah, dah dah dah DAH dah.

0:35 Back to exactly the point where I was stuck. Yup, five minutes.

0:36 Desperate, I turn to the on-screen "operations guide" to see if I'm missing something obvious. If I find a crystal ball, I can continue by holding left when I press start. Again, intuitive!

0:37 "Be sure to search everywhere!" Thanks instructions. What do you think I've been doing?!

0:38 The parasol increases your rate of fire! There! Now I'll be able to sleep tonight. Also, the medicine I get makes Milon small when touched by "Bog (the green glove)." Uh huh... so where do I find that exactly?

0:40 I see something that looks kind of like a green glove just out of reach at the top of the right side of the screen. There's got to be a way up there, right? It just stands to reason.

0:45 I think I have now shot a bubble at literally every square inch of this room, and turned up nothing.

0:47 I go back to the shop. "FIND A SAW" IS NOT A HINT!

0:49 This music is going to haunt my dreams all week.

0:52 I have no more words. Part of me wants to use a guide for help, but a larger part of me doesn't want to give this game the satisfaction. I've played my fair share of games, and I feel if I need a guide within the first hour, it's the game's fault, not mine. I bet Milon veterans are laughing at me right now for missing something, but I don't care... this should not be this hard!

0:55 I'm beginning to think that maybe this game shipped with a fatal bug that makes the second room impossible to pass. Is this the "Secret" of Milon's Secret Castle? This idea seems more and more credible the more I play.

0:56 Not that anyone cares but I died again.

1:01 Has it been an hour already? Sorry, lost track of my sanity the time.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? No.
Why? If I wanted to be trapped in a room all day I'd commit a crime and go to prison.

This review based on a Virtual Console gift copy given to me as a joke by my friend Bruce. No, really.


JohnH said...

While I won't defend it -that- much, it's true that I actually kind of like Milon's Secret Castle. Anyway, I suspect the place you're stuck depends on finding the hidden shop in the first level. There's a block on the ground in that screen with shootable blocks on both sides of it. Shoot those blocks, then run against the side of the remaining block for a few seconds to push it to the side! Then you can shoot the space and enter the shop.

Yeah, it's a horrible obscure trick, and because money usually doesn't respawn you have to be careful with what you buy anyway, but it is called Milon's Secret Castle for a reason I guess.

Sorata said...

Oh yeah, I remember this game. I played it when I was 7 or 8 and never got passed the first floor. Then when I was 18, one day I thought I'll just give it another try (I was reloading all my NES games just for the heck of it), and I got to the second floor. WOOPEEDOO

My conclusion to this game is: I hate it that it made me couldn't stop because I'm annoyed. Does that make sense?

jim said...

Milon's Secret Castle always struck me as the kind of game that, like Tower of Druaga, was meant to be solved not by a single person but by the community of players as a whole. Each obscure, barely guessable trick might only be discovered after several man-hours of random futzing, but spread across everyone in your local arcade, each individual might need only spend fifteen minutes futzing.

Marilyn said...

Keep up the good work. Merry Christmas!

Clara said...

I still remember trying to get off that level. So much so that HOW MANY YEARS?! later I decided to Google it to see if there was an emulator copy out there. That's when I ran across your running commentary. Priceless. That's just the process I remembered! By the way thank you for saving me the unfortunate "luck" of actually finding the game. I think I'll go hit my head with my keyboard for an hour or so instead. It will be less frustrating and get the same result as playing.