Should a loading screen appear mid way through play, the sense of immersion is shattered as you have to wait for the action or narrative to resume. No one wants to look at a loading screen, no one wants to be forced to stop playing. This is why, as a child, I liked consoles. You would put the cartridge in the console and within seconds the game would be onscreen. No waiting, straight to the gaming.
Until recently I thought it was impossible for a cartridge based game to have to load. While my knowledge of the inner working of games machines is basic at best I was under the impression the console is able to instantaneous access any part of the cartridge's content at any time. I thought loading was impossible until I played 'Mickey Mania' a game that has so many loading screens no amount of good content can justify the wait.
While recreating the events of each short, 1994 era Mickey Mouse must save his classic former self. It's a treat for animation historians, especially as 5 of the 6 levels in the game are set before the fifties. Each stage is gorgeously realised and visually inventive. The first stage, based on Mickey's first foray on screen, 'Steam Boat Willy' is actually black and white for the bulk of the stage. Other stages are more subtle in their homage to the past, with appropriate enemies and music for example. For the most part the game sticks to tried and tested 16 bit platforming tropes.
There are a few basic puzzles that typically involve throwing specific things at targets, or pushing an object into or under something. However, in the main, running and jumping will be what Mickey does most. There's little that hasn't been done before and while the visual stylings in 'Mickey Mania' may come from classic Disney cartoons, what you do in each level is largely borrowed from other platformer games. One stage sees Mickey have to descend a staircase, the most notable feature of the stage, is that when Mickey walks left or right, he always stays in the centre of the screen. Instead the tower behind him turns to give a convincing sense of depth and motion. If this sounds familiar it’s because you’ve played the celebrated 8bit game 'Nebulus' (also known to some as 'Tower Toppler').
Another often talked about stage is the rampaging moose level, which sees Mickey fleeing from the subject of the 1937 cartoon 'Moose hunters'. Playing like an invited racing game, play is viewed from the front of Mickey. To escape the moose he needs to avoid all rocks, get apples and leap over water. It's certainly an impressive stage, one that will seem recognizable if you have played the stampede stage in 'The Lion King' of more recent games like 'Crash Bandicoot'.
This is somewhat difficult to believe as 'Aladdin' had come out a year before, but regardless the huge character spite has a hand drawn feel and it's difficult to imagine a way for Mickey to emote that isn't in the game. The problem with such a large beautiful sprite though is that it takes up a lot of the screen. With a bigger on screen presence comes greater difficulty dodging enemies. This becomes worse when the screen starts filling up with far too many things that can hurt Mickey. There aren’t bullet hell Platformers but if there were, ‘Mickey Mania’ would be a prime example. Exploding skeletons become far more irritating than they should since their showers of bones are near impossible to avoid.
Likewise a simple level enemy like a flower becomes harder to beat than an end of level boss once it stars spraying a fountain of petals. Every enemy projectile seems to gravitate towards your character yet irritatingly your own projectiles only cause damage half the time. Mickey throughout the game can collect marbles which can kill foes should jumping on their head not be possible. These are limited in supply, so when they consistently pass through an enemy causing no damage at all it makes the game just feel unfair and broken. But the terrible collision detection is hardly a flaw when compared to the shocking amount of loading the game demands you sit through.