Mindscape memories

Struggling publishers usually keep going until they rack up a huge amount of debt and go bankrupt. Not Mindscape, however. Their last couple of games – including U Sing on Wii – haven’t done as well as expected, and so they’ve decided to retire from the gaming industry and produce interactive toys instead. A brave move. Just think – if Acclaim had done the same thing we could be racing to work on Extreme-G bikes by now.

Let’s say farewell to the company by looking at their some of their most remarkable titles. None of which are U Sing.

Alfred Chicken
Game Boy, NES, Amiga

A nice platformer with tight controls that was even rather colourful looking on the NES – a format that for some reason had a very dull colour palette. Of course, the Game Boy version wasn’t colourful for the obvious reasons. As Alfred can’t fly springs had to be used to get around. Alfred later appeared on PlayStation in a new 2.5D adventure published by Sony themselves.

Circuit Breakers

A game with a name that’s a pun? Brilliant. This faced comparisons with Micro Machines when it was released but is still fondly remembered by those who played it. A bit clichéd perhaps – weapons included oil slicks, tracks were set in jungle, Egyptian and city environments – but with four-players via multi-tap it was jolly good fun.

Mario is Missing!

Along with the awful Zelda CDi games, I expect lending Mario to Mindscape is a deal Nintendo wish they had never done. A geography-based educational game aimed at younger gamers, it featured sprites taken directly from Super Mario World. At least that was the case for the SNES version, though the NES version was still quite nice looking considering Nintendo’s involvement was clearly limited. Until Luigi’s Mansion was released this was the only game to feature Luigi was a lead character. According to Wikipedia several facts that appear in the game are incorrect. So much for it being educational.

Mario’s Time Machine

Another Mario game? Yup. This one was set in 1993 and saw Bowser travelling through time to nab artefacts from the past including Queen Elizabeth I’s crown. Mario and Luigi had to stop him or else history would be altered forever. Reviews weren’t favourable – it was likened to Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego? which wasn’t a very good game either. Check out the box art – I bet you thought you’d never see Mario and Abraham Lincoln together. Pity the child that received this for Christmas instead of Mario Kart.

3DO, PC, Sega Mega CD

Quite possibly Mindscapes’ most renowned piece of work. Much like Myst, it gained a lot of press coverage simply because it was one of the first PC-CD Rom games. It wasn’t a very good game, playing like a mixture of Spy Hunter and Road Blasters, but it was popular enough to spawn a couple of sequels.

Captain Blood
Amiga, Atari ST, DOS, Mac, Apple II and Commodore 64

EDGE magazine released some one-off magazines dedicated to retro gaming many years ago. In one of these each of their current writers picked an old game and reviewed it as they would have done if EDGE existed when their chosen games were released. One reviewer picked Captain Blood – a graphic adventure driven by an icon based interface. 120 different icons, no less. They gave it a 7, praising the gigeresque interface and inspired touches. Quite funny that they used the word ‘inspired’ there seeing that one of the aliens you come across resembles Yoda.

Blazing Dragons
PlayStation, Saturn

Monty Python’s Terry Jones narrated this point and click adventure. Reviews were incredibly mixed – Saturn Power loved it, while the Official Sega Saturn Magazine felt quite the opposite. But that’s point and click adventures for you – they aren’t always going to be everybody’s cup of tea. Those who enjoyed this drew comparisons with the first Discworld game, and a quick look on eBay reveals that copies can fetch over £20.

Atari ST, Amstrad, Commodore 64, MSX, ZX Spectrum

From blazing dragons to blazing trails. This is one we’ve mentioned on Games Asylum recently – a 3DS version was reported to be in development by Retro Gamer magazine a couple of months ago. Requiring swift reflexes, it’s a game that still plays as well today as it did back in the ‘80s, simply requiring you to move a ball out of harm’s way as it rolls down a path at an increasing pace. The Gizmondo version – which wasn’t published by Mindscape – is one of the few reasons to buy the failed handheld.

Mindscape was also responsible for bringing other companies’ games to different formats back in the day. They helped Wizball bounce onto the PC, released the Bitmap Brothers’ Speedball and Xenon 2: Mega Blast on Game Boy, helped Paperboy and Gauntlet leap from the arcade to a range of 8-bit formats, and assisted Wing Commander to wing its way onto the SNES. They released a game based on Captain Planet and the Planeteers too, but let’s ignore that shall we? No publisher is perfect after all.

Matt Gander

Matt is Games Asylum's most prolific writer, having produced a non-stop stream of articles since 2001. A retro collector and bargain hunter, his knowledge has been found in the pages of tree-based publication Retro Gamer.

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