It’s not often that I’m left with very little to comprehend about some things. I mean… I don’t quite grasp mechanics for one thing. I still remember being bamboozled ENTIRELY by a question in my A-Level mechanics module exam that involved a swan landing on the end of a greased log travelling down a river and the log has a certain amount of friction and you had to work out how far down the river the log had travelled before the swan fell off it.
I say I don’t UNDERSTAND it; I do actually understand what to do but nowadays, I’m more in the ‘WHY AM I EVEN ANSWERING THIS SHIT?’ camp. Why do I need to know this? What good will it do me in the long run? I mean, seriously? Who wants to know about swans on greasy logs? The swan can swim. Why would it land on the log? Why is the log so greasy? What even is going on here?!
So imagine if you will Ronald McDonald, slightly creepy clown mascot for the McDonald’s franchise, starring in his very own video game. And imagine further, if you will, that that video game is developed by Treasure, a games company whose previous game was Gunstar Heroes, and would then go on to make Dynamite Headdy. And let’s be honest here… this game is much more than a simple McDonald’s-sheened platformer. It plays like a precursor to Headdy. It feels very similar in some ways but you can definitely tell that this is a Treasure game.
And that’s why it’s still… odd. Why did this come about and what reason is there for the world to want a McDonald’s-themed platformer? AND PARTICULARLY one that barely even references the franchise in general, aside from the character mascots.
IT’S… A MCDONALD’S GAME.
And it’s NOT shit.
I know. I know. Let’s get into it though.
So here’s the thing. Ronald’s found a bit of an old treasure map whilst going for a jolly in the woods – sorry, the MAGICAL FOREST (because everything is magic, apparently) – and it’s only a PART of it. There are three other parts of the treasure that have also been found by some very evil looking randomers (one of whom looks like an evil tomato… yeah. I know) and Ron’s got to get them so that he can get the treasure for himself.
So far, so simple. It’s ordinary in plot but to be fair, it really doesn’t need to be complicated. I know! Let’s throw a complicated plot into a game designed for children! Oooh, good idea. Sonic got by on “FIND THE CHAOS EMERALDS” plot devices for years in the early days and they got by OK. I think we’ll be alright with a simple “FIND THE TREASURE MAP” plot.
Particularly if Treasure’s making it.
Being the cheerful fellow me is, Ronald waltzes through the levels at a leisurely pace, following tight controls, hopping from platform to platform in an attempt to make it all the way to the end each level, broken up by goal posts so that the levels aren’t OTT long. They sort of acts as checkpoints as losing a life (which isn’t common until at least the third level…) will only send you back to the start of that section.
Ronald’s weapons of choice are not burgers or fries or slightly dodgy looking real-life versions of the stuff they shove on the posters which it NEVER looks like (and believe me, having worked at their rivals in the past, it’s not possible) but instead MAGIC and a scarf.
Yeah. I know. Look. You’ve got this far, stick with it. It didn’t make much sense in the first place, are you going to begrudge it further?
Good ol’ Clown-face Charlie shoots magic from his hands for some unknown reason and he can do away with the clearly-not-very-threatening enemies using his MAGICAL hands because MAGIC. Apparently. The scarf itself isn’t a weapon but is used to grab onto hooks dotted about the level in true platformer style. It can be a bit cumbersome at first but you do get used to it. The first level is realistically designed like a mini tutorial in that it EASES you in gently, without letting you come to any harm. I mean, the whole game seems so cheery, chirpy, cheesy, are you seriously expecting it to be menacing at any point? PLUS IT’S A MCDONALD’S GAME. Unless they were going to allow Treasure to turn Ronald McClown into John McClane in which case WOW, that would be MUCH fun to see. Ronald McClane…?
God, that would be a ludicrous cross-over.
Someone make it happen.
Anyhow, being Treasure, they have, of course, taken a few liberties in the way they design the game. Things that shouldn’t happen just sorta do. I mean, here’s Ronseal gallivanting over the top of bunny-eared dancing girls on a level involving a train. They ARE the train, it appears. And a bit later on, the carriages start splitting off and spinning so basically Treasure didn’t quite get the memo on keeping things simple and sensible, as they never did, and just did whatever they felt was fun at the time. Make one of the bosses a tomato? GO FOR IT! Include a hat-wearing weasal-like character who wants to smoke you to death with a train? GO FOR IT! But can we steal his hat?
OF COURSE WE CAN FUCKING STEAL HIS HAT. YEEEEEEEAH!
And really, that is sort of why this game is actually as good as it is. There’s a real element of love being displayed from the developers to actually create a decent game, rather than so something obvious and shitty with the licence. They could have gone the easy route and just thought “people will buy it anyway, cos it’s McDonalds!” like other companies have done with other licences. Instead, everything in this game feels FUN and interesting kinda because you don’t expect it to be. However, we’re not going to give this game any major prizes or anything because it’s not perfect. It’s very simple, it looks alright and it gives the play a good time for the short amount of time it takes for you to complete it – given that there are only four levels to the game.
But it’s BECAUSE it’s so simple, so bright and cheery, and so accomplished as a game in general that it’s a cracking platformer. It’s not disorientating. It’s consistent throughout. It’s FAIR. And bizarrely… given that it’s about a slightly creepy-looking clown, it’s quite charming.
And you all know how much of a sucker for charm I am.
Treasure KNOW what charming is. They know how to make something that might be a bit unusual and something that you might think twice about to start off with fun from the off. The way that Monald RcDonald controls is beautiful. There ARE moments where the level of precision needed for his scarf move to grab hold of platform hooks is INCREDIBLY precise but once you’re used to it, you’ll be fine. Plus there aren’t too many opportunities for you to die if you miss. It’s more of an inconvenience to traverse back to the start of a certain place to return to that point. Perhaps, slightly disappointingly, you don’t even NEED to use them to get through the level but they ARE helpful. Bags of gold, gold rings and silver rings are dotted about the level and are designed to replenish health when a full set have been collected. They’re like back-ups for Ronny McDoughnut, and he might need them in boss fights.
Look at this tomato-y motherfucker. He looks like a cast-off from Ballz, only with more colour, depth and in a better game. He stretches his arms about but that doesn’t do a whole lot of anything. He jumps up, a couple of shitty enemies drop down and he starts spewing some sort of rainbow light at you to suck some of your life away. When he does that (AND HE HAS TO DO THAT – WOWZERS. Talk about a slightly masochistic tactic), you can then attack him while he munching on part of your soul… sorry, health. MAGICAL HANDS AHOY and away we go. Done and dusted. He gives you his part of the map.
But then again, there were a lot of games like this at the time so let’s let them off. They gave us Gunstar Heroes and Dynamite Headdy and they were bloody good – as is this – so be nice. You’re wouldn’t want to make fun of then, will you?
It is the only MAJOR typo I found in the dialogue, which is cheerful and whatnot as well. DanganRonpa McDoodlebug is ever so nice with everyone he meets and he’s super friendly to the enemies he beats.
And yeah, the game’s happy, optimistic nature is actually oddly infectious. There are plenty of moments where I worried that I wouldn’t be able to pass a level or didn’t know quite what to do to get past an enemy or those ballet-dancing bunny girls but I never got angry. I laughed about it. This game made me laugh about the possibility of dying.
I’m not sure what to tell you.
And even the bosses look cheery as fuck throughout so you cannot begrudge them that either. I do have to admit that the boss fights were quite repetitive in that essentially, you were using the same tactics each time to win. Let them steal some health, then magic them to death until…
Because of course.
Look, this game has Roncey McGonagall jumping around casting MAGIC at everything so don’t tell me you find this to be a surprise. It’s a nice, over the top way of saying WELL DONE and one that I will remember.
“Oh yeah, I remember this game where when you beat the boss, the whole screen shat out stars into your face.”
“That sounds sick and wrong.”
“It’s the McDonald’s Mega Drive game.”
“Yeah, you’re not making that game sound any better.”
Yeah. I didn’t really try to though.
Graphically and sonically, it definitely hits the mark. The tunes aren’t memorable but it sounds appropriate and fun and the graphics show off some interesting ideas like this one with the lights blocking a lot of the screen out to act as a challenge for the player. You can just about see Rooty McTooty crouching in the screen so he avoid low-level walls flying overhead. Yeah. Try doing that with the lights flickering out all of the time.
(Oh and by the by, I did eventually play this game on something OTHER than the Beginner setting, I wanted to get the screen caps first without DYING MERCILESSLY… Or regularly. Which ended up happening on Hard. A lot.)
And so the shocking fact that a game based on Ronald McFuckingCreepyClown is actually an absolute genius blast to play disturbs me. It shouldn’t by any right be any good at all. But you’ve got Treasure behind it and they rarely made bad games at the time. What it DID do was act as the groundwork for what Dynamite Headdy was capable of doing. The shifting platforms and the way the platforms move and slope is oddly reminiscent of Headdy’s platforming. It’s bizarre to think that this game really set that game up to be the game it was. I mean… there are moments of real bonkers-ness in this game but they’re NOTHING in comparison to Headdy.
But what this ended up being is a jovial, snappy little title that was easy to get into, was good fun to play, made little to no sense in terms of set-pieces and whatnot and basically played REALLY well.
EVEN IF THE PROTAGONIST IS A FUCKING CLOWN.
ARE YOU EVEN HAPPY IN THIS GAME, RUMPLESTILTSKIN MCWERTHERS?
ARE YOU FAKING IT?
You’re faking it.
THIS IS WHY WE DON’T LIKE CLOWNS.