So, I am not sure how to really start this review off. I do enjoy McDonald’s, but find myself rather going to BK for the slightly better quality in bread, but who are we kidding: if you want a great burger, then go to a real restaurant or make one burger-meal yourself. However, I do have fond memories from McDonald’s, due to birthday-parties, the toys you got with Happy Meals, and don’t mind the convenience of having one in every corner, should I crave something cheap. Also as a side-note, while I am not fond of clowns at all, Ronald is one I can tolerate after the bunch of adorable commercials and charity-projects he has been involved in, despite the obesity-issues associated with fast-food in general.
Of course, none of these aspects are the reason for why I was excited to play McDonald’s Treasure Land Adventure. It was rather due to the fact it was made by Treasure and, if you do not know who they are, you seriously need to redeem yourself. They are known for some of the best games ever, like Gunstar Heroes, Alien Soldier, Guardian Heroes, Bangai-O, and Sin and Punishment. So you bet I was excited to play this and after a quick drive through, I was set to eat McJunk, and enjoy this wonderful acid-trip.
Bring the kids along for a fun adventure
Ronald is out for a stroll when he suddenly finds a piece of a treasure map. Curious about what the treasure might be, he sets out on a treasure hunt and defeats 3 other semi-evil foes in order to get them. It is a strange plot with cutscenes and all, but is clearly there to just get you moving along. I do like how Ronald is nice enough to the villains and never demands anything, he just wants to go on an adventure and even when he finds the treasure, he is not interested in taking it. It is a bizarre plot, but at least he shows that greed is not a good feature. Wonder if he feels the same about gluttony.
With so many platforming-mascots in the early 90s, what else would have been more fitting than to give one of the most iconic characters his very own as well? McDonald’s Treasure Land Adventure is a linear platformer. Ronald possesses some intriguing abilities, such as a magical beam that can be powered up two times and shoots in a horizontal manner, jump, and has a scarf to use as a hookshot directly above him. The scarf can only be used on specific areas, but are spread out in stages enough to make them feel more than just context-sensitive aspects and are creatively added in stages, such as being usable for changing between zip-lines or alternate between platforms.
Actually, let’s talk about the level design, as this game features inventive stages. All incorporate McDonald’s abilities to a great extent while giving you different platforming-challenges. Some provide alternate pathways, have hazards to keep in mind, mazes that are short enough to not be confusing, auto-scroller trains that force you to jump between layouts, and more. This amount of variety gives each stage their own flavor and the game is nice enough to make you aware of new gimmicks before they throw you into it. None of these stray far from the platforming, or go beyond or under Ronald’s abilities, making you always have fun and be engaged. My favorite might have been climbing up a skyscraper under construction, while sumo-wrestlers smashed the platforms and altered the level-design, which you already saw them doing one stage before on the streets.
The only unfortunate part about these creative stages are the enemies. While varied and rather put in as obstacles, a few can take too many hits in order to be killed. This is an annoyance as, while you can power up the magic, it can easily be lost since every hit will make it depower by one level. Some enemies can also take 2 hitpoints of you, but luckily you will be able to easily extend your health-bar from 4 to 7, and the max HP is kept even after game over.
Speaking of, the game is uneven in its difficulty, as level 1 and 4 feels much harder than stage 2 and 3 due to some enemies being quite hard to kill. You are always up for a fun time as the stages are engaging and fun themselves, but the difficulty might take you off guard. Luckily, the game is very forgiving, especially if you explore for points. You see, points function in this game as currency, so gathering plenty of G-bags and even health pick-ups, will grant you points to be spent on stores that you can find in the stages. These contain anything valuable, such as health-orbs, extra lives, or magical power-upgrades. Also, although you won’t see health-crystals often, you will find golden or white flowers (rings in the European version) and can gather 2 gold or 3 white in order to restore a health-crystal. With full health, these will instead be saved for when you take damage.
If that was not enough, you can also find a minigame in the form of Columns inside certain stages, where the icon on the blocks represents one of the items you can gather. For those of you unaware, Columns’ concept is about taking falling blocks made out of three different colors or icons, and stack them with others in order to make a row of at least three in the same color either diagonally, horizontally or vertically, which will make that row disappear and grant you points. In this case, after making a row of specific icons disappear three times, you gather that icon’s representing item, be it health, extra lives, or other. This is entertaining, but is sadly stiff and clunky, while also making an already forgiving game even more so at this point. At least, Columns’ concept is still fun here.
My absolute favorite idea tackled in this game is how they fixed falling into bottomless pits. You can collect balloons, which will save you from falls once each and make you fly for a short while. If you don’t have any left, then you lose a life and when you go game over, you can either use a continue or get a password for continuing on another day. I suppose these are the best ways to showcase that while McDonald’s Treasure Land Adventure might not go for new grounds, it just provides good fun and instead fixes problems that have plagued other platformers, with neat concepts added in for good measure.
Even the boss-fights are kind of representing this. All will try to suck up one of your health-gems, which is the only time they can be hit, but this concept is helped by that you don’t lose magical powers when this happens, and enemies roam the screen for making it so you can gather more health-orbs. Two out of the fours fights last a bit too long and required tons of hits, which the final did not let you do often, but outside of this, they all were fun and changed slightly from each other to feel fresh, such as one flying around and the other having doors to enter through in order to change layers.
Fun, approachable, and while never going too far with its concept, makes sure all abilities Ronald has are well utilized within creative level-design, and the small upgrades it brings to platforming games, helps lessen the tedium seen in other titles within the same genre. It can be uneven in difficulty, but never unfair or dull, and you should have a great time from beginning to end.
Gameplay Score: 7/10
Magical surrealism for the kiddies
It is quite admirable what Treasure did for a game with product-placement as its main source of inspiration. All characters have fun designs to them, with both familiar faces like Ronald, Hamburglar, Birdie, and new creatures such as the evil tomato with stretchy arms and legs. Every creature is bizarre, yet fitting. The forest has walking gnomes that create thunder clouds, the circus-trains have evil clowns and minecarts with miners hacking around, and the other stages to add to this rich and detailed world. In fact, the worlds you visit are great surreal takes on our world, such as pointy trees in the forest, odd mountains in the background with a waterfall, a train that alters between bizarre circus-creatures to ballet-dancers for platforming who dances to Swan Lake, and a pirate ship with plenty of ziplines to jump between.
It really is a McDonald’s version of Neverland as everything feels connected, surreal, and has small nods to Treasure Island. I would have liked some more diverse areas to explore, as there are only 4 main-areas; Magical Forest, Magical Town, Magical Sea, and Magical Moon. It is hard to complain much, however, as there is obviously a lot of creativity, love and effort put into it with plenty of animations in the backgrounds, be it a parallax scrolling sky, or psychedelic visuals. It all is brimming with high quality. It is even light on the product-placement, which makes it focus on the magic of McDonald’s world.
Sound-effects are also pleasant and engaging, with magical attacks being whimsical and subtle, and jumps creating a cartoony “boing”. The actual low-point of this game’s presentation overall is the music, which is still strong in its own right. The worst offenders are the fast tunes that are on the repetitive side and clash between main-tones and undertones. However, it is still a catchy soundtrack as the melodies are great, and the rest of the tracks have enough variety, have a better speed, and are clear with their notes to be entertaining and fitting for the areas they are played in, despite not necessarily being memorable. All songs have diverse beats and chip-instruments to make them engaging.
Presentation Score: 8.5/10
I am impressed. While it might not be Treasure’s strongest title, it is still an imaginative and fun game for the Genesis, with some mechanics that try to further the platforming genre, and some we will see perfected in later titles, like Dynamite Headdy’s hanging-concept or saving yourself from bottomless pits in Alien Soldier. It might be slightly uneven in soundtrack and difficulty, but what is here, offers a good platformer that wants you to have quality fun more than necessarily having a unique concept. I am loving this.