This unusual 2D platformer was released in 1997 on the Nintendo 64 and, by Jove, it’s an interesting one.
Japanese developer Treasure was behind it and it involves you playing as Marina, this “female” robot. In the game, you generally grab and shake stuff whilst traversing the levels.
Something about its bizarre qualities stuck with us over the years, so we’re here to celebrate its place in the Nintendo 64’s library.
Mischief Makers—The N64’s First 2D Platformer
Its structure is quite odd—it’s one of those warped Japanese titles publishers think westerners would just find too weird.
Kind of like Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon. Except Konami’s 1998 3D adventure is even more insane than this.
However, Goemon and Mischief Makers did make it to the west for the N64. Good!
And Treasure’s game arrived in Europe (where we’re from—England, to be precise, Manchester a bit more precise… don’t go hunting us down, now, you hear?) in January 1998 and met with strong reviews.
However, up against titles like Goldeneye 007 it was immediately overshadowed.
And it was generally regarded as that quirky and chaotic entity from Nippon. Kind of out of place, too, for a console pushing its 3D adventures agenda.
But over 20 years after Mischief Maker’s release, more people are remembering the SOB fondly.
A lot of classic N64 titles have been hitting the big 20 over the last year, with the likes of Ocarina of Time and Banjo-Kazooie rapidly approaching their respective birthdays (and blasting right by them).
And those games are massive behemoths in the console’s legacy. Total legends. Whereas Mischief Makers remains one of the lesser-known games from its catalogue.
There were 388 games released on the console, which is quite a small amount by modern standards.
And this outing was, weirdly enough, the first 2D side-scroller to appear on the console.
That’s, primarily, as developers were busy arsing about trying out 3D games at that time. With the shift away from the SNES era, it was surprising to find a 2D platformer on the console.
And this is what gamers were letting themselves in for.
A curious graphical style kind of along the lines of Yoshi’s Story (actually released after Treasure’s game) meets… well… it’s kind of distinctive.
There’s a plot in there, by the way, and it’s pretty minimalistic.
Marina’s mission is to save her creator, who has been kidnapped.
To do this, you head into 2D platformer land to jump about, get a boost from a jetpack, shake stuff, take on some impressive bosses, and
What soon becomes apparent is Marina’s equally groovy “Shake! Shake!” sound bite which doesn’t get annoying, you just want to shake stuff!
The mental nature of the game, organised in its chaos, then emerges… as does the fun factor.
As you can see in the below clip, it gets hectic and what ultimately transpires is a mixture of action, puzzle, and platformer levels that you traverse.
As Marina the robot, your mission is to save its creator. This individual has been kidnapped.
That concept, by the way, it’s too far removed from the Japan-only life simulation game Wonder Project J2 (1996). Ish.
Let’s just say in Nippon they like their robots stylised as women.
Anyway, in Mischief Makers the goal is to jump about, get a boost from a jetpack, shake stuff, and take on some impressive looking bosses.
These are as fast-paced as the rest of the game, which is pretty much the approach Treasure took to its production. Ramp up the mania.
With five worlds and a big heap of levels, it’s an action-packed game that’s unusual, not perfect, but a great dose of fun.
The main thing about it was it did something different with the 2D platformer formula. So anyone pining for a SNES type fix was sorted here.
Variety is on offer in spades across levels. Treasure put a lot of effort into the game.
However, reviews at the time good but not amazing. And the title was pretty much buried by the arrival of Rare‘s landmark Goldeneye 007 in late 1997. Exactly when Mischief Makers launched. Unlucky!
Anyway, its status now appears to be of a hidden gem from the N64’s library of games.
But thanks to its 2D setting the graphics have aged nicely. So, got an N64? Or know of an emulator? Give this one a whirl.
Mischief Maker’s Legacy
Developer Treasure is still around, but it doesn’t seem likely we’ll be getting another Mischief Makers game anytime soon.
Although, with a bit of luck (updated for October 2021 here!), we’ll see the game on the Nintendo Switch’s N64 library.
If it doesn’t make it, then there’s Iconoclasts (2018). It’s a 2D platforming indie game that has a similar look and feel about things.
As you can see from the highly annoying, terrible commercial above, marketers didn’t really know how to sell the game back in early 1998.
Does that pile of rubbish above make you want to play it, or do you just want to punch the actor playing the taxi driver?
These days, we’re in the middle of an indie game golden age where a relentless stream of brilliant platformers surging out into the gaming world month after month.
Mischief Makers isn’t as good as modern gems such as Ori and the Blind Forest, but it represents an interesting coda in the N64’s history—a title that harked back to the SNES era and appeared archaic as a result.
However, its look and quirk factor now ensure it stands out amongst many other N64 games. It was a bold effort to try something a bit different, so a hearty pat on the back for Treasure’s efforts.