Overall Rating: 2.5/5 Stars
In 1988, developer Taxan offered the North American release of Mappy-Land, a port to the Nintendo Entertainment System based on an earlier arcade game. Like many other home console titles of the era, it was a serviceable version of the cabinet unit but with a step down in graphics, featuring never-ending gameplay in an attempt to garner high scores.
The NES video game Mappy-Land follows the action of the protagonist, Mappy the Mouse, a police mouse in fact, as he traverses various areas in a side-scrolling platforming adventure divided into four stages of eight levels each, the eight levels almost identical but with slight differences in each world until they eventually repeat completely. Throughout the first world, Mappy must collect pieces of cheese; then, the second world, rings; then Christmas trees in the third world, before collecting baseballs in the fourth and final.
As he is doing so, he is pursued by small cats called Mewkies, a slightly larger cat on each stage named Goro, and sometimes differing foes depending on the level, such as level three that has monkeys on vines. Getting touched by any of these enemies loses a life, and losing all lives equals Game Over.
The control is non-traditional, with the B button used to jump and the A button used to set traps, which are kept in an inventory amount at the top of the screen and can temporarily distract moving Mewkies when laid. Otherwise, this is a very vertically oriented game, with dozens of trampolines throughout that Mappy must use to choose which floor of different structures to traverse in order to find the necessary items in each realm needed to advance to the next stage. There is also a time limit, though not overtly shown; however, there are two warning sounds given before enemies increase or one outright kills Mappy. Sometimes a level, like level six with obtaining a cross to get past the vampire cat at the end, requires a secondary objective. Play continues as Mappy collects the needed items and advances to the end of each stage.
Sometimes the trampolines are a bit touchy, and the third-level vines especially so. In fact, this entire game has a very distinct feel to its controls that takes some getting used to. Once you get used to it, you will find yourself smoothly traveling between the floors, using the trampolines, setting the in-level traps, grabbing the items, and traversing along as you conquer level after level, until the welcome reprieve in the castle side-level (like the church or haunted house on level six) of level eight when you race to try and gather the items in time for Mappy’s family member’s birthday party, etc. This is among the most obviously arcade-inspired of the NES games.
This cartridges looks okay in play, but not great. The colors are a bit washed out, to the extent that it can take a few moments to find a needed on-screen item at times, as they lack proper outlines and detail. It is of average appearance, taking the usual step down from the graphics of the arcade counterpart.
Like other early titles, especially arcade-inspired renditions, Mappy-Land has upbeat, high-pitched background music. It is not as grating as some other examples, but is certainly not going to win any awards any time soon, either. The effects are simple, though very appropriate, such as the little ghost gun on level six, or the heavy noise of the bowling ball traps as they bounce along.
The original concept is interesting, in that the characters have names and there is even a loose plot involving Mappy collecting items for his family members. The gameplay itself is just the natural, organic arcade advancement of previous item-finding, time-sensitive, high-score-seeking titles like Pac-Man, but with a heroic mouse and some more colors.
Overall, Mappy-Land is a very average game, if that “very average” phrase makes any sense. It will have its loyal adherents that have fallen into deep fondness with its mechanics and have mastered them, and it will also have its detractors who only grow further frustrated and annoyed with its play that can be downright difficult and annoying if you are not used to it. Its one endearing value is, pointedly, this learning curve: In a way, this video game is unique, and those who break it down into its basic foundational aspects may find the same satisfaction that other gamers have found when conquering Donkey Kong, Centipede, etc. But even if it is considered a tightly developed, perfectly challenging arcade-style port cartridge, its shallow play and inability to break any spectacular boundaries of quality lands it two and a half stars out of five.