Disney properties have produced a higher number of quality video games than most other licensed franchises. At least they did back in the day. The colorful worlds of Disney animated films and cartoons make for a fitting translation into video games, and during the 80s and 90s, Disney often got high profile developers such as Capcom to create their games. Along with nostalgic favorites like Ducktales and Darkwing Duck titles on the NES, Capcom also produced a trilogy of Mickey Mouse video games for 16-bit consoles, known as the Disney’s Magical Quest series. Though each game in the series played similarly to each other, it seems the second entry in the trilogy, The Great Circus Mystery, is often the most fondly remembered.
In The Great Circus Mystery, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse are on their way to a circus, when a disheartened Goofy informs them that everything in the circus has run amok. It turns out that Pete – this time going by the monicker of Baron Pete – has taken over a haunted house, and has used an army of ghosts to wreak havoc across the land, including the circus. Naturally, it’s up to Mickey and Minnie to set things right.
In regards to gameplay, it’s a pretty straightforward platformer, albeit with some fun twists. Players take control of either Mickey or Minnie, with the game allowing for a second player to join in at any time. Both of the iconic mice can jump on enemies to stun them, and can then pick up said enemies, as well as blocks, to toss them at other foes Super Mario Bros. 2 style.
The big hook of the Magical Quest series, however, was the characters’ ability to find different costumes, which alter the gameplay in fun ways. Here, Mickey and Minnie pick up a cleaner outfit, a safari gettup, and a cowboy costume. The cleaner allows Mickie and Minnie to suck up enemies with a vacuum, while the safari costume gives them hooks to climb up walls, swing on chains, and slide down ropes and vines. The cowboy outfit may be the most useful, however, as it not only gives players the ability to jump higher with its accompanying pogo stick horse, but also gives them a pop gun, allowing for a projectile attack that can be used anytime so long as you have ammo.
What’s interesting is how the level design later gives players the chance to get through levels in slightly different ways, depending on which costume they use. Admittedly, this is more true for the safari and cowboy outfits, as the cleaner costume doesn’t come into play nearly as much.
Though the gameplay is fun, The Great Circus Mystery is definitely on the short side, with only six levels to speak of: a circus, a jungle, a haunted house, a cave, an icy mountain, and Pete’s castle. Each level is separated into two acts, with each act ending with a boss.
Another downside is that the game is incredibly easy. You’ll find that you’ll rarely be having much of a challenge in the enemies or levels. Making things even more of a cakewalk is how getting a game over doesn’t deter you much, since you still come back at the last checkpoint and have unlimited continues. Even the bosses, though creative and varied, aren’t particularly challenging (with the exception of the second boss of the ice world, which is one of the few times you’ll be breaking out the cleaner costume after its introduction).
The only real problem that arrives upon getting a game over is that you lose all of the coins you collected. The coins are used to purchase upgrades to the costumes and extra health late in the game, and the items can get a little pricey, so chances are you won’t be able to get anything when you finally make it to the shop. Still, with how easy the game is it hardly feels like a big loss to miss out on the upgrades and such. Some hearts that increase Mickey and Minnie’s health are found hidden in some of the levels anyway, so by the point you even make it to the shops, you’ll probably have more than enough health to get by.
Visually, the game looks pretty impressive. Though it doesn’t have the same fluid animations of Mickey Mania, The Great Circus Mystery still catches the eye with sharp, colorful visuals that capture the look of Mickey’s animated shorts. The music, while not particularly memorable, is also upbeat and fun, and suits the nature of the game.
The Great Circus Mystery Starring Mickey and Minnie serves as a fun platformer that’s made all the better with two players. Though it may not hold much depth due to the short length and easy difficulty, it does showcase a good amount of Disney and Capcom charm.