Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!



#57 – M.C. Kids

This fun, golden platformer isn’t kidding around!

This screen doubles as a little playground to move around in.

To Beat: Reach the ending
To Complete: Beat all stages and collect all puzzle cards
What I Did: Completed the game
Played: 8/27/17 – 8/29/17
Difficulty: 6/10
My Difficulty: 6/10
Video: M.C. Kids 100% Longplay

McDonald’s is one of the most iconic and ubiquitous brands in the world. Ronald McDonald is a household name, and just about everyone recognizes the golden arches. It’s no surprise that there are licensed video games based on their cast of characters. What may be surprising is that the NES game is quite good. M.C. Kids channels the spirit of Super Mario Bros. 3 with some clever twists that makes it a great NES platformer.

McDonald’s is an American fast food restaurant that was first founded in 1940 by Richard and Maurice McDonald as a barbecue restaurant. In 1948, they changed over to a hamburger stand and subsequently expanded to other locations. Ray Kroc purchased the chain from the McDonald brothers in 1955 and established McDonald’s Corporation. Today, McDonald’s has vastly expanded worldwide approaching 40,000 total restaurants in over 100 countries.

The character Ronald McDonald may have been created by Willard Scott. The former NBC Today Show’s weatherman was the original Ronald McDonald in three television ads in 1963, and he claims to have created the clown character himself. McDonald’s expanded their advertising by introducing McDonaldland in 1970-1971. Many new characters came and went over the years to accompany Ronald. McDonaldland was officially phased out of advertising in 2003.

Something tells me the kids weren’t part of McDonaldland.

A few video games were created using the McDonaldland characters. The Famicom exclusive Donald Land was released in Japan in 1988, and was both developed and published by Data East. The NES game M.C. Kids was released in North America in January 1992. It was both published and developed by Virgin Games. The European version was renamed McDonaldland and was published by Ocean Software in 1993. In a strange twist, the Game Boy port of this game was released as McDonaldland in Europe and rebranded as Spot: The Cool Adventure for North America. A Sega Genesis follow up named Global Gladiators was also released in 1992. Another Genesis game, McDonald’s Treasure Land Adventure, was released worldwide in 1993 by the developer Treasure.

M.C. Kids (pronounced “Em-Cee” Kids) is a side-scrolling action platformer. The Hamburgler has stolen Ronald’s magic bag, and Ronald asks the kids Mick and Mack to help him track it down. To do this, the kids must locate some of Ronald’s puzzle cards from the levels in the world. When you collect enough puzzle cards, the path to the next world is open. This cycle repeats until you track down the Hamburgler and recover the magic bag.

On the title screen, you take control of Mick. This is a great place to get a basic feel for movement and jumping in a safe environment. There is a signpost pointing to the left labeled 1up, and another pointing to the right labeled 2up. Walk off the appropriate side of the screen to activate either one-player or two-player mode. Above the signposts are moon blocks. Bumping your head into the block changes you between Mick and Mack. They control the same, so simply pick the one you prefer. For two-player mode, the second player gets the other character. Two-player mode is alternating play.

This map style reminds me of some other game…

After the introductory story, you are taken to the world map. Use the D-pad to walk on the predefined paths between stages. Press A to enter a stage or house. Each stage is noted with a flashing M with a signpost next to it indicating the level number. At the top of the screen, you see the name of the world you’re in, as well as the level name if you are standing on a stage tile. You also see how many puzzle cards you need for this stage, the number of lives remaining, and how many arches you have collected. The puzzle is on the top right of the screen in a rectangle of six tiles. The cards not yet collected are displayed as M tiles. For each puzzle card you find in the levels, a tile is flipped over revealing part of the puzzle for this world.

The levels themselves are large side-scrolling levels where you control the kid directly. The controls are easy to understand but movement takes time to master. You move with the D-pad and use A to jump. You can duck by holding Down. You get a higher jump by jumping while ducking. You run automatically by walking on the ground in one direction for a while. Movement is momentum based and you maintain your speed well while jumping around. There are slopes that can either boost or reduce your speed accordingly. Running at full speed or close to it produces the highest jumps.

The B button is used to pick things up. The most common thing to grab are blocks that you hold above your head and use as weapons. Walk into a block and press B to lift it, or you can stand on a block, duck, and press B to grab them that way. You then throw the block with B. You can throw the block up or down, or press B without a vertical direction to throw the block forward. Thrown blocks will bounce once or twice before dropping off the screen, and sometimes you can hit more than one enemy with the same block.

Well, I need health, so this little bird has got to go!

At the top of the screen in a level you see a few indicators. The M stands for how many arches you have. These are floating M’s within the levels that you collect just by touching them. The L shows how many lives you have. Underneath that are hearts that represent your health. You begin each new life with three hearts. You lose single hearts when colliding with enemies, and you die when all hearts are depleted. There are no item drops or health pickups in M.C. Kids, but you can restore hearts in a couple of ways. Defeating ten enemies will restore one heart, and if you defeat two enemies with the same block you also recover a heart. You start with three hearts but can go up to four. Health also carries over between stages which is something to keep in mind.

The most important item in M.C. Kids is the puzzle card. They are solid blocks with an M on them and you collect the card by picking up the block. To keep the card permanently, you need to finish the level after grabbing it. You end a level by touching the goal line situated between two goal posts. There is a floating M across the line that will give you some arches if you touch it while breaking the string. When the level ends, you will high five your friend and see a message indicating which puzzle card you acquired, if any. Some cards in a world are for a puzzle in a different world, and some levels have two cards instead of one. The cards can be well hidden or stashed in hard to reach places, so it’s crucial to explore the levels thoroughly.

Most puzzle cards are a little harder to find.

There are several types of blocks in M.C. Kids. Blocks with a 1 on them are extra lives, and you will see many of them in the game. The reverser is a left-facing arrow block that sends you flying and flipping all the way back to the start of the level. Sometimes you will see a block outline moving around in a level. If you find a similarly shaped fill-in block and touch it to the outline, it will make the block solid and you can use it as a platform. A boat lets you float on water and you can climb in it and use the D-Pad to move the boat across water left and right. You can even grab this boat like a block and throw it into a different body of water. There are also porous blocks that float in the water and drift forward on their own. There are sand tiles that you can dig through like in Super Mario Bros. 2.

One of the neatest elements in M.C. Kids is the spinner block. It is a solid, fixed block that is located at the end of a long platform. You want to get a running start and run right over the spinner block. Do this and you will run around to the underside of the block, letting you walk on the ceiling with reversed gravity. You can reach high areas this way. One thing to note with reversed gravity is if you fall off the top of the screen, you lose a life just as if you fell down a pit.

There are also several different springboards and lifts found in stages. Small springboards let you jump high. These are usually found in the open but sometimes are hidden behind grabbable blocks. Super springboards require you to carry a block with you to spring very high. The travel lift is a platform that begins stationary and starts moving when you jump on it. The continuous lift winds around in a predefined pattern and you have to watch it for a while to see its path so you can reach it safely. The conveyor lift shows up near the end of the game. It travels along a guidewire and you move it yourself by standing in the center of it and walking either left or right. Walking left moves it forward and walking right moves it backward. This lift is particularly tricky to learn. The zipper is neither a springboard or lift, but it comes up often. Press B while standing in front of it to transition to either a new room or different location within the level.

This path for this lift winds around a lot.

As you play, you will accumulate arches. You will lose some whenever you collide with an enemy. If you manage to collect over 100, the arch counter rolls over and starts blinking. If you finish the level from here without dying, then you get to play a bonus game. This is a small level containing four blocks on upward rails. One of the four will light with an up arrow, and then shortly after the rest will display downward arrows. You want to jump quickly to the one with the up arrow to slide it upward a little bit before the down arrows activate and lower the block you are standing on. The idea is to lift at least one block high enough to reach a ledge at the top with a couple of zippers. Use the zipper to go to a 1up room with several 1up blocks suspended over a pit. Grab as many as you can! If you fall off the blocks in the bonus game, there’s a moon block on the floor you can use to switch characters if you want.

When you collect enough puzzle cards, you can go to the house in that world and speak with its owner. He or she will then provide you a path to the next world. If you are missing cards for a particular puzzle, you can drop by the house for a hint. Collecting all the cards for a world and visiting the house may provide some other benefits. There is nothing on the map to indicate if a completed level still holds a card, which makes it more difficult to track down missing cards. However, you don’t need every card to beat the game. You may also find secret cards. There is an optional secret world in the game that you can find that only opens if all secret cards are collected.

This was my first time playing through M.C. Kids, though I have owned the game for quite a while. I bought it during a brief collecting phase I had around 2009 or so. There was a deal on eBay where you could pick 10 games for either $20 or $30, and M.C. Kids was one of the games I chose. Those kinds of deals make me wonder if I had missed out on another game that would eventually become more expensive. M.C. Kids sells in the $10-$15 range these days, so it ended up being a good purchase.

This bonus level features multiple fake goal markers.

It took me a couple of days to beat M.C. Kids. The first night I streamed gameplay on Twitch, and I was doing decently until the end of the third world. I was really struggling to figure out a few different sections, and after 90 minutes or so I called it a night. The next night I pushed my way through to the end of the game in a near three-hour session. It wasn’t pretty but I got the job done. However, I wasn’t recording my attempt, and I also beat the game without visiting the special world at all. Once you get to the ending, there’s no way to go back. I also missed two puzzle cards that weren’t necessary to play all the levels and I looked online to find out where they were hiding. I had ideas on where both cards were located, but I don’t think I would have found them on my own unless I grinded out a few more hours of playing. With all that in mind, I beat the whole game again on my third attempt and captured video this time. I had to play the special world blind, but it went relatively well for the toughest stages in the game.

The deeper I get into this project, the harder time I have figuring out how to rate games on difficulty. If you can keep your NES running for a long time, then you could probably beat M.C. Kids. There are unlimited continues, and beyond that there are several places where you can grind out extra lives to not even need to continue. There is at least one level that has two extra lives right at the beginning, so by grabbing both and dying right away, you can slowly build up a stock at any time. I also found a cache of eight lives or so in a level in the first world, which is even better for grinding. Therefore, lives are not much of an issue in beating the game. The two things that make the game challenging are the momentum-based physics and locating some of the trickier-to-find puzzle cards. This seems like an average difficulty game to me, but I decided to tick up the rating to a 6 since I had trouble the first night I played.

M.C. Kids is a fun NES game that I recommend playing. The levels are often sprawling with many things to do, and the game introduces many different elements along the way that keep the experience fresh. The reverse gravity gimmick works well and it is used in clever ways. The graphics are very clean with some nice animation, and the music is equally great. I had this track stuck in my head for several days after playing. It’s no Mario 3, but it resembles it enough that it’s an easy game to recommend. The AVGN video on M.C. Kids has raised awareness of the game, but it’s been long enough since that review that the game has backed up a bit into mild obscurity. Now that I’m shining some light on the game, make sure you don’t skip this one.

#57 – M.C. Kids


#36 – The Adventures of Rad Gravity

A “Rad” adventure that may or may not pull you in.

Rad floats around and points at which option is selected. Neat!

To Beat: Reach the ending
To Complete: Beat the game with all health upgrades and items
What I Did: Beat the game
Played: 10/17/16 – 11/1/16
Difficulty: 8/10
My Difficulty: 8/10

One of my favorite game styles is the open world platformer, more commonly known as a Metroidvania. The Adventures of Rad Gravity does not feel like a Metroid game but it is sort of a similar experience, which took me by surprise when I started to get into the game. While the Metroid series is one of my favorite game series, this particular game is not nearly on the same level though it does have some moments that are really quite interesting. Let’s take a deeper dive so you can better understand what I mean.

The Adventures of Rad Gravity was developed by Interplay and published by Activision. It was released in December 1990 on the NES in the US and it later made its way to Europe and Australia in 1991. The Australian version was distributed by Mattel. The game is an NES exclusive since it was not released in Japan and had no ports to any other system.

The story of Rad Gravity starts with a colonization effort long ago between nine planets. During this effort Compuminds were developed that could communicate instantly between all the colonized worlds. At some point, a wizard named Agathos was transformed by some kind of weird space magic into a huge brain. Because of this, Agathos came into power and decided that he wanted to take over the colony and shut down all the Compuminds, leaving the worlds to fade away and decay. Some time later, one of the Compuminds named Kakos was discovered and turned on. He came up with a plan to restore the rest of the Compuminds and bring back the former colony to glory. Kakos cannot physically explore the planets and must employ Rad Gravity as the best space cadet suited to travel to each world and restore both the Compuminds and the colony.

Rad gets stuck doing the dirty work.

The Adventures of Rad Gravity is a side-scrolling platformer game where you play the role of Rad. You team up with Kakos to explore each of the nine worlds. The game begins in your spaceship where you can select an available planet from your monitor and Kakos will beam you down to the surface. Here you control Rad directly from a side-scrolling view. At the start of the game you only know the location of one planet, but as you explore you will come across the coordinates for other worlds. You will also accumulate different kinds of equipment to help you explore later levels. You can travel to almost any unlocked world at any time. Thus the item and level progression is how the game resembles Metroid.

The controls are simple. When controlling Rad use the D-Pad to move around, press A to jump, and press B to use a weapon or item. The Start button pauses the game and brings up the item selection bar at the top of the screen. Press either Left or Right to select the item you want to equip and then press Start to unpause the game with the item you selected. You can press Up on the D-Pad to enter doors or interact with computer terminals, and you press Down to duck. You can also jump down through certain floors by holding Down while jumping with A.

When inside your spaceship looking at the map, there are colored circles that indicate places you can reach by teleporting. Use the D-Pad to choose a teleport location and press A to go there. If you choose one of the planets you will zoom in on it to see either one or more possible landing spots. There are also stargates on the map that will warp you to a different part of the colony where you can see different planets. I found that the map can be pretty confusing to navigate when the stargates are used, so sometimes I had to bounce around for awhile just to figure out what areas were available to me, but it’s something I eventually got used to.

Enter your coordinates and get going!

There is a menu bar at the top of the screen displayed during the platforming sections. You can see which item is equipped as well as Rad’s health bar. There is also a score counter that is completely frivolous because you only earn points when collecting items. There are no points awarded for defeating enemies which seems pretty unusual for an action game.

Rad collects many items along the way to help in his quest. You begin the game with three very useful items. The Communicator item is your method to travel from a planet back to your spaceship. You can use it at any item to leave a level whether you are done looking around or if you get into a bad spot. When you teleport back to your ship your health is completely restored. That sounds really nice but there really isn’t much of a penalty if you die. Actually you can teleport out during the death animation and you still get full health back, making death a personal choice! The second item is the Translator which allows you to read messages found on computer terminals. The third item is a Laser Sword for close range combat.

The rest of the items are found along the way. The most common upgrade is the health upgrade. The item itself looks similar to a chunk of your health meter. Collect it to add another bar of health to your maximum. There are 15 of them in the game and some of them are well hidden. The teleport beacon is a neat item with some really clever uses for the resourceful player. It comes in two parts. Press B when equipped to throw one on the ground, and press B again to teleport to the exact spot you dropped it. The beacon location is lost whenever you go back to your ship, but you can use to teleport back no matter how far away you go or how many screens away you are. Another item is the Energy Disk that acts like a hoverboard. Deploy it with B and hop onto it and you can float on it while moving left or right. You can move downward with it but you cannot go up. If you jump off then it vanishes. This item does force you to spend a bar of your health to use it so you will only use it in a few cases. There are also three different levels of armor upgrades that lower the health loss when taking damage.

Oh boy oh boy oh boy a health upgrade!!

The rest of the items are weapons. There is a sword upgrade called the Super Sword that gives slightly longer range and more attack power than the base sword. You get a Power Pistol that fires bullets horizontally across the screen. You can upgrade it to the Vertigun that lets you also fire vertically, and you can later find the Maxigun that gives it a power boost. Saurian Crystals act as bombs that you toss in an arc ahead of you, and you can find the Crystal Bombs to power them up even further.

There are ten levels in The Adventures of Rad Gravity. Cyberia looks like a cityscape with a few buildings to explore. Effluvia is the garbage dump of the colony. Sauria is a jungle styled level with some vicious baby dinosaurs. Turvia is flipped completely upside down for a unique experience. Vernia is another city high up in the clouds. The Asteroid Belt contains an abandoned spaceship. Utopia is a planet with two sides and an underground factory. Odar contains an underground maze. Volcania is a burning planet with active volcanoes as you might expect from the name. Telos is the final planet shrouded in mystery!

There are quite a few enemies and traps that stand in Rad’s way. Most of them are your run of the mill enemy types that can be killed with a few attacks. However there are quite a few obstacles that have some kind of unique behavior attached to them. Some enemies you can kill and they explode after a short pause sending shrapnel across the screen. Other enemies cannot be killed but they can be manipulated by how you shoot them. Some enemies can be pushed around if they are blocking a critical path. Sometimes an enemy can push Rad through small spaces that he cannot walk through by himself. There are some enemies that Rad can safely ride on top of. These enemies tend to be put in places where you have to think more about what to do to get past them rather than just engaging in pure combat.

Weaving and bouncing through the asteroid belt can be really taxing.

By the same token, there are certain kinds of mechanics that only appear in a single area in the game. In one level, you have to place a peg inside a hole on top of a gate that opens it. One levels has keys to find. There are blocks you can push that you need to use as stepping stones to clear certain jumps. In the Asteroid Belt you need to navigate between obstacles by firing your gun in the opposite direction to push Rad around as he floats in space. The game does have a variety of things to do in all kinds of environments that make the game interesting.

The Adventures of Rad Gravity does feature a few boss battles mostly in the second half of the game. Similar to the enemies, the bosses tend to have some kind of unique gimmick associated with them where you have to figure out what to do to effectively fight them. These solutions are not always obvious and there was more than one moment where I was left scratching my head.

While not overly long, this is not a game you can finish in a single sitting unless you have already played through it a few times. Fortunately the game has a password system! The only way to trigger the password screen is to actually die in a level without teleporting out of it, which is a little annoying to do. The passwords themselves are 20 characters long and they track all of the items collected and planets unlocked.

Hmmm I wonder how to fight the green blob?

This was my first time playing The Adventures of Rad Gravity. I did not really know about this game until I started my big push for collecting NES. The only way it really stood out at all early on is because of the bright orange label. I ended up buying this cart individually on eBay in 2014 for a little over $7 shipped. While not a terribly expensive game, that cart had the best price I have seen on it so I snagged it right away. The game now sells typically in the $15-$20 range and that price is not too much higher than it was when I bought the game.

I started playing Rad Gravity when my wife was out of town for a couple of days. I was able to put in about 4-5 hours of play time and that got me about halfway through the game. The latter half of the game took longer and I spent two weeks grinding through it. Some of the difficulty stemmed from not knowing which area was the correct one for my current item loadout and some of it came from figuring out how to best clear the areas themselves. I struggled some on the bosses too. I am happy to report that I managed to beat the entire game without looking up anything in a walkthrough. Some of the solutions are obtuse enough that it was no small feat to clear the game on my own. Now this was not a 100% complete run because I missed some health upgrades as well as one of the powered up weapons if I recall correctly. I watched a longplay of the game with all items and some of the ones I missed I probably would not have found on my own. There is only one ending regardless of item completion so reaching the credits is enough to consider the game beaten.

Here’s a tip that helped me get through the game. I found the manual to be particularly helpful for a specific reason. Toward the back of the manual is a section called Top Secret Clues. These hints in and of themselves were only occasionally helpful. The clues are grouped by planet and the order of the planets listed in this section is the same order you can play through the levels. It turns out you do not have to follow this exact order but this way definitely works if you want to take the guess work out of where to go next.

Trying to figure out this stage had me running on fumes.

I have mixed emotions about the game. There are some really neat elements to the game that I have already mentioned, but the whole package doesn’t add up quite right. If I had to describe my experience in a single word, I would choose clumsy. The jumping physics feel really heavy most of the time, meaning you can jump pretty high and then fall down hard. In contrast, the level design is often claustrophobic with long tight horizontal corridors. The jumping combined with the level design can lead to missed jumps and a lot of unnecessary frustration. The sword is not really a great weapon and you are stuck with dealing with close combat and hardly any health at the beginning of the game. The backgrounds can be very unclear on which blocks are solid and which ones are just decoration. The way to make progress is not always obvious making it easy to get fed up with the game, at which point you might drop it altogether or dip into a walkthrough at the slightest hint of getting lost. But I have to say, there were some moments where I figured out something that was so cleverly done that it will stick with me for a long time. It is really hard for me to pick a side here!

The Adventures of Rad Gravity is a really tough game for me to give a strong recommendation. It’s not a great game, it’s not a hidden gem, and it’s not really even an average game. Instead it is a combination of varying highs and lows. I think this is a game that you have to play to know if it’s something you will like. Watching videos or looking at screenshots do not convey well what this game is all about. And frankly reviews don’t do it much justice either. It seems to me that most reviews give up on the game before some of the neat stuff starts. My hope is that this post will highlight the game just enough for you to decide if you want to seek it out on your own and form your own opinion.

#36 – The Adventures of Rad Gravity