Take on the NES Library

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#116 – Mappy-Land

Another one of Namco’s iconic characters gets his own land!

There’s no gradient, but a three-color title is good enough

To Beat: Finish Level 4-8
Played: 3/8/19 – 3/9/19
Difficulty: 3/10
My Difficulty: 3/10
My Video: Mappy-Land Longplay

Mappy was a popular arcade game by Namco that released in 1983. The NES received many arcade ports during its lifespan, including many other Namco classics such as Galaga and Pac-Man. Mappy did get a Famicom port but never saw an NES release. Instead, what we got was Mappy-Land, a console-only sequel that extends the formula from a score-based arcade game to an adventure game. Let’s dive in and see how that panned out.

Mappy-Land was developed by Tose. It was first released on the Famicom in November 1986. There it was published by Namco. The NES version in North America came out way later in April 1989, published by Taxan. It was also included on Wii U Virtual Console worldwide in 2015. This game and the arcade original were the only two Mappy games released in the US. Japan had the arcade sequel Hopping Mappy in 1986 and a Famicom platformer in 1989 called Mappy Kids.

In Mappy-Land, you play the role of Mappy over four different stories, most of which center around Mapico, Mappy’s girlfriend. In the first story, you are collecting cheese as a present for Mapico’s birthday. In Story 2, you gather wedding rings because Mappy wants to marry Mapico. The third story has you collecting Christmas trees for a party. In the final story, you find baseballs for Mappy Jr.’s birthday party. Each of these stories consist of eight areas, so in all there are 32 areas to clear in Mappy-Land to consider the game beaten.

Collect items, avoid enemies. Sounds simple!

This is a simple maze-chase style game with equally simple controls. The D-pad controls Mappy. You can walk left and right. Press Up or Down to use ladders. The B button lets Mappy perform a small jump. Most items are in the air and Mappy jumps to grab them, and even though B-button jumping is normally something I hate, it didn’t bother me this time. The A button is used for deploying weapons. That’s all there is to it.

The ground rules for this game are also simple, mostly following from the original Mappy arcade game. You start on the bottom left and the enemies, the cat Nyamco and his crew of Mukies, begin pursuing Mappy from the upper right. This is a scrolling game that expands several screens horizontally. The structure of each level is four floors high that are sometimes connected by ladders. Empty vertical columns often contain a trampoline at the bottom that Mappy and the enemies can use to switch between the floors. Mappy passes through all enemies unharmed while on the trampoline. You can only get off the trampoline while moving upward, and after a few consecutive bounces the trampoline will vanish until you either get off or fall through to your death. Mappy loses a life if he collides with an enemy or if he falls, except when he is either on or leaving a trampoline. You can also fall on top of a partial ladder and be okay. The goal of each level is to collect the six items from the story, then exit to the right.

Since you can’t always navigate your way around all the pursuing enemies, you have some defensive weapons at your disposal. These are displayed in a row at the top of the screen and you can collect more as you find them. Press A to use them, however you can only the item positioned at the end of the list, so the last item collected is the first one used. You start off with three cat toys. Mukies will get distracted by them allowing you to pass through them, but Nyamco is unaffected. Coins do just the opposite; they distract Nyamco but the Mukies don’t bother with them. Pots cause Mukies to faint, letting you pass by safely. Fish are thrown forward and bounce ahead, which causes all enemies to chase them.

I was able to distract the muky but not Nyamco.

Each of the eight areas has a different visual theme, a different costume that Nyamco wears, and a unique attacking weapon that shows up at fixed locations in the stages. The first area is Railroad Town and it contains pulleys. Grab one and Mappy will slide to the left, knocking out any enemies in the way. The second area is Western World and there are punching bags. Jumping into one cause it to rock back and forth for a while which knocks out passing enemies. The next area is Tropical World with fireworks. These are like bombs. Set them up with a jump and they will sit there until an enemy passes and it explodes. The fourth area is Jungle World. This area has a different structure from the others. There are no weapons here, but the level layout is a wide open space with no floors and no enemies that actively pursue you. There are trampolines strewn about, many of which are high up off the ground and slide left and right. Use these trampolines to catch and cling to vines that help you cross pools of water. You can fall safely after bouncing and you can control Mappy with Left and Right as you fall, but you must land on a trampoline after leaping from a vine or you will lose a life.

The fifth area is Pirate World. This one has horizontal bars and Mappy will swing around them for a time, hitting any enemies that pass by. The sixth area is Ghost Town which also has a different play style than the other stages. This is another open area where Mappy uses a balloon to fly around. Use the D-pad to fly in any direction. Mappy is armed with an infinite use flashlight that he shines when you press A. The cats fly around as ghosts and you can vanish them with the flashlight. Here you collect keys to open a door leading to a side area. You have to find an item here that lets you pass through to the end of the stage. The next area is Seventh Avenue and it contains sticks that you bop from underneath to hurt enemies above you. I never was able to utilize these when I played. The final area is Muky Town. There are bowling balls that roll along the ground when you release them, taking out enemies along the way. Instead of going off to the right when you collect all the items, you must enter the castle door in the center. This takes you to another side area with no enemies and a new set of items. You must collect all the items here and reach Mapico at the end of the area before the level song completes. If you fail, you are awarded no bonus points but you get to repeat that part again as many times as needed without losing any lives. Complete it to earn a point bonus, then you go to the first area of the next story.

It’s nice not being chased sometimes.

As you proceed through the stories, the enemies start chasing you faster and thus are harder to avoid. Some areas also have the exit blocked, just like how I described above about Ghost Town. In that case, you need to locate the sub area that opens once all items are gathered. Inside the sub area, you have to collect another item that lets you pass through to the end of the main area outside. The entrance to the sub area is often telegraphed by a doorway in the background that you wouldn’t have otherwise noticed.

Now I’ll cover a few miscellaneous features and tips about Mappy-Land. Sometimes, the necessary sub area is made a little bit harder to find because you need to jump into the entrance. This tripped me up on one specific level. You can use both kinds of weapons together. For instance, you can distract a bunch of Mukies with the cat toy and then run them all over with the pulley in the first stage. Combo attacks like this also earn you a bunch of points. It is also possible to jump over a single enemy if you get trapped. I wasn’t aware this was possible until I re-read the manual after beating the game. Even though it’s not necessary for beating the game, I know it would have been handy to know that.

Mappy begins with two extra lives. There are no extra life pickups but you do earn a free life at 40,000 points. I didn’t score much higher than that so I don’t know if you can earn more lives or not. Dying in a level maintains the items collected, and that’s helpful for clearing some of the more difficult areas. You have unlimited continues to use when you run out of lives. You go back to the title screen but you can choose the Continue option on the main menu to restart the latest level. Be careful to manually select the Continue option so that you don’t accidentally start from the beginning and lose your progress. Mappy-Land has your back anyway in case that happens. The game features a built-in Stage Select option. You can choose to play any story and any odd-numbered area in that story. This means you can skip straight to 4-7 from the start and only have to play two areas to get the proper ending!

Some levels have you entering rooms in the background.

This was my first time playing through Mappy-Land. I only played one area during my initial cart testing. I remember reading about this game in my old gaming magazines. I didn’t get a chance to try it until I collected the game as an adult. I haven’t personally come across many copies of this game, but it is reasonably common. A loose cart sells for around $8 or so. My copy has some label peeling, so I wouldn’t mind running into a condition upgrade in the future.

I didn’t have much trouble beating this game for the first time. This is a straightforward game that you can just keep trying until you get through. There are a few tricky spots to cope with. Jungle World is cumbersome at first with the floating trampolines and unintuitive physics. If you don’t catch the vines in the right way, it is possible to fall to your doom between them. It reminds me of Spelunker but not in a good way. Some of the later levels are laid out where one of the objects you need is located on a one-way path. It can be tricky to get the enemies to cooperate so you can get through, but that’s why you have your weapons. I would take an intentional death just to ensure I could get an item in an out of the way location. This is a minor spoiler, but there’s a level where the floors are invisible unless you have a torch that you found in the previous area. If you have to continue on that stage then you are locked out of the torch altogether. While possible to navigate blind, it is really helpful to see the layout at least once before. I didn’t have to go back a level via the stage select or anything, but that was an option I might have considered if I were stuck for a long time. My longplay video was my second attempt and it went well enough. I got stuck for several minutes on 4-1, which was the only major blemish in an otherwise average run.

I had a fun time playing Mappy-Land, though it’s not without its issues. The graphics are simplistic but detailed enough with the different backgrounds and costumes for Nyamco. They might be nice for 1986 standards but not as great by 1989 when it reached the NES. I liked the music and how there was a different song for every area. They even brought back the original Mappy song for one of the sub-areas. The controls are easy to learn and use. The gameplay is okay but it gets repetitive. It’s not a terribly long game, but 32 levels of being chased around simple mazes is quite enough. The mechanics drag this game down a little bit. Mappy can fall from any height after bouncing off a trampoline and be fine, yet if he takes a tiny fall of a ledge he dies. But you can fall onto a half-ladder with no trouble. The rules don’t really make sense, but to be fair, neither does passing through deadly enemies on the trampoline. The Jungle World is the worst offender here, trying to flesh out some platforming that doesn’t fit the style of this game. Ghost Town with the floating balloon does it much better. The game is a little bit janky overall. I haven’t sold the game well here, but I had fun playing it and I appreciate its modest difficulty and some nice touches along the way.

#116 – Mappy-Land

Posted In: Finished

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