Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Game 212: Mappy

Decades ago, I rented an NES game called Mappy Land, an intentionally cute platformer about an athropomorphic mouse evading cats in a variety of settings. In retrospect, I suspect this game wasn't all that good, but it was one of the first platformers I ever played that wasn't Super Mario Bros. Some years later, when I came into possession of a copy of Microsoft Revenge of Arcade, I tried out Mappy, wrongly thinking this was the same game, and quit once I realized that Mappy had only one setting which would be repeated with variations in the stage layout.
Cutesy aesthetic aside, Mappy plays like another variant on the Pac-Man formula that Namco often returns to one way or another. You're a policeman tasked with recovering stolen property from a gang of kittens; your natural predators even though they're smaller than you. Mappy has no sidearm, no pepper spray, no handcuffs, zipties, or cords, doesn't use the little baton he carries, and has no means of detaining or subduing the literal cat burglars. Except for slamming doors in their faces.

The big obvious difference between Mappy and Pac-Man is the perspective, with Mappy taking on the format of the side-view platformer that was becoming all the rage in the early 80's, though without any jumping or ladders, verticality doesn't play quite as big a role here. Your only means of ascending or descending floors are trampoline shafts throughout the level, which also provide invulnerability from the Meowky gang until you leave the shaft, which you must do before the trampoline breaks.

Your other means of defense are the doors, which can be opened and shut from surprisingly far away, and can knock down pursuing cats if opened or shut right into them. Later levels introduce bells at the top of the trampoline shafts which can be knocked down the shaft, stunning any cats there, though the stun is so short relative to the time it takes to do this that it is more useful for scoring points than buying you time. Certain doors also emit a shockwave that can blow multiple cats off the screen, potentially scoring big points, especially if the gang boss Goro is among them. Goro himself is actually the least dangerous cat, as rather than pursuing you, he mostly just runs around and does his own thing. Sometimes he hides behind objects, and if you can snatch them very quickly (and unless you anticipate his move you probably can't), it's worth 1000 points.

Further bonus points can also be collected by recovering the loot in an optimal sequence. Each level has two radios, two televisions, two computers, two paintings, and two safes, and early on you will want to collect them in that order; the loot is worth ascending values, and each pair you collect in a row increases a multiplier. Done perfectly, the final safe, worth 500 points normally, will be worth 3,000 points instead. Later on, when the cats can outrun you and stage time limits are tight, you probably want to focus on collecting the loot as quickly as possible, but you'll still want to grab pairs when the opportunity presents itself, and may want to save the safes for last if you can.

Mappy also features bonus rounds challenging you to quickly pop all of the balloons in a trampoline-filled level, finishing with a big one that Goro hides behind for a bonus. I could never find a way to pop them all in time, and learned to settle for popping most of them as long as I got Goro in the end.

My best attempt reached level 10 and scored almost 68,000 points. Around this point I hit a wall, as I couldn't keep outmaneuvering the cats reliably enough. I'd also, thanks to the scrolling format, get blindsided by cats popping in from off-screen, which felt rather unfair.

GAB rating: Average. Mappy's an okay time waster, looks great, and is perfectly functional and deeper than it looks, but it gets monotonous pretty fast.

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