Genre: Platformer Developer: Disney Interactive Publisher: Disney Interactive Players: 1 Released: 1995
In this Europe-only release, you play as Donald Duck, the detective Maui Mallard who’s on the trail of a long lost Idol which has recently vanished. The developers adapted the new clothing style of Donald Duck that was used in the animated shorts back then (around ’96 I think), namely his wearing a red Hawaiian shirt. I don’t know why, but it seems fitting since a good portion of the game takes place in jungles. There are basically two playable characters in the game: Donald as himself, and Donald as a ninja. There are tokens flying around to collect and when you get them, Donald can turn into a ninja.
As regular old Donald, you have a pistol as a weapon. There are several types of ammo to use: bombs, boomerangs, normal bullets, you name it. The cool thing is that they can be combined, and there are a lot of cool combinations possible. If a bomb and a boomerang are combined, you get some sort of grenade that shatters boomerangs. Fun stuff to play around with.
As the ninja, it is possible to do special moves like running real fast, fighting with the bo stick, climb up shafts with help of the bo stick, and more. The tokens I mentioned before drain while you are a ninja and when they’re depleted, you return to normal; however, there are more than enough tokens around and it’s never really a problem to maintain ninja style. Fights are basically only dependent on the timing of your attacking and jumping away safely. There are also special tokens around that add moves to your combo. It’s simple but it works, and it’s fun. When you start out, you can only do one strike. Every time you collect a special token, one is added. In the end, you can do some cool swings in series simply by pressing the attack button repeatedly.
The gameplay is excellent. I know very few games that bring as much as this to the table. It never gets boring because just about every stage brings you new stuff. How do bungee jumping, getting shrunk to bug size, building walls with mud, fighting zombies or running around in a volcano sound? The list is much longer that actually. The gameplay is just so diverse and well thought out. It’s a challenge too, as the difficulty rises steadily, and the last levels will be a challenge to even the hardcore platform fans among us. This is complimented by a decent amount of humour. The characters, surroundings (make sure to watch the murals in the 2nd stage) and especially the sounds are sometimes downright hilarious.
The graphics are great and the surroundings are impressive for a 16-bit game. Everything looks polished and I can tell they put a lot of effort in it. Furthermore, the characters are remarkably well done. The way they are animated is very true to the Donald Duck cartoons, and is often funny as hell. We have seen the Mega Drive pushed to its limit with Sonic 3D Blast, and while the graphics style in Maui Mallard is very different, they’re also pushing it. The more I played it, the more I was amazed at how good it actually looked after all these years even. All of this runs very smooth with almost no a slowdown.
While the visuals are very high quality, the sound is where things shine the most I think. It’s funny that I say this since I’ve only been really positive on the other points. The music is definitely the best I’ve heard in just about any 16-bit game. Hell, a lot of tunes beat the crap out of today’s soundtracks. The whole jungle-ish voodoo theme is quite listenable and the music is always catchy and contributing, never annoying. I don’t know which genre to put it in. It’s some kind of jungle-drums/jazz/rock ‘n roll hybrid. If I ever get the sheet music of the menu song I would like to play it with my band; it’s that good. They could seriously make some excellent songs out of it. Completing the aural excellence are some wonderful sound effects. From the ninja transformation sounds to the screams and curses of insane witch doctors, it’s all there and it’s good.
All in all, Maui Mallard is a premium classic, period. It just does everything right. In my Mega Drive collection (which is a rather large one), this one shares the first place in my top three, together with Sonic The Hedgehog 2. If you missed this one, you missed one of the greatest Mega Drive platformers ever. Highly recommended.
SCORE: 9 out of 10