Isn’t it strange that the same creatures that carry disease and caused the rapid spread of the Black Death in Europe back in the 1340s eventually became the world’s most iconic and recognizable characters? Clearly Walt Disney was doing something right when he thought up Mickey and Minnie Mouse, and Capcom was doing just as well when they made The Great Circus Mystery Starring Mickey and Minnie (otherwise known as Disney’s Magical Quest 2). As far as classic and memorable platformers from the ‘90s go, Disney had a handful of hits (we’re looking at you, Aladdin and The Lion King), and Great Circus Mystery fits right in with them.
The story starts out with Mickey and Minnie arriving at the circus. They talk about being late and hopefully finding their friends when their pal Goofy shows up. Goofy mentions that everything is a disaster, and then dismally walks off, leaving Mickey and Minnie to wonder what is really going on. As the story unfolds, you soon learn that the dastardly Baron Pete has taken over and cursed the land, leaving it up to Mickey and Minnie to stop him, return peace to all, and reunite with their friends. The plot is thin but family friendly. If you’re expecting the same quality of writing that goes into most Disney movies then you’ll be sorely disappointed, but the uplifting and cheerful mood of Mickey Mouse cartoons is translated pretty well.
You are given the choice to either play with one or two players. Whichever you choose, the adventure is still the same, but two players allows you and a friend to each control one of the mice and tackle the game simultaneously. Playing as one player simply means that you’ll be going it solo, but you still get to choose which mouse you would like to play as. Choosing one over the other doesn’t actually change gameplay at all and is really just a sprite swap. Whether you’re playing with one or two players, the game’s assorted difficulties still provide a decent enough challenge for all who approach.
The entirety of the game is a platforming adventure that spans across six levels. Each of these levels follows the same general structure: platforming, mini-boss battle, more platforming, and finally an actual boss battle. Despite the structure never changing, the levels are so diverse that you never really get bored with the formula. As you advance, you will be given different costumes, including a sweeper, a sort of safari suit and a cowboy costume. Each costume has different abilities that you will need to harness in order to defeat bosses or get past certain parts in the levels. Regardless of whatever powers your costume might add, jumping on the heads of enemies is still the easiest way to stun and kill them.
The controls are very straightforward and easy to master. Pressing B makes your character jump and Y picks up stunned enemies. The Y button is also used to activate the special powers that come with your costumes. The L and R buttons cycle through the different costumes that you have available, and the A button will make your mouse change into whichever costume you have selected. In games like this, tight controls are essential to good gameplay, and the sensitivity of your movements in Great Circus Mystery does not disappoint.
Visually and audibly, this is one of those great SNES games that stands out and shines bright. The colors are vibrant and the shading is done just right. The character sprites, be they good or evil, stand out from the backgrounds enough to be clearly visible, and everything looks crisp and tight. The soundtrack always remains appropriate for the level and situation, and listening to it is a delight.
Like many platformers at the time there is no save option, but there is the opportunity to plug in passwords in order to start at later levels. Starting over without the passwords shouldn’t be too much of a problem, however, because of how much fun this game really is. Many of the platform games from the SNES days banked on being enjoyable enough to be replayed over and over again, and this fits the bill perfectly. There aren’t secrets to unlock or items to collect as you play through, but that shouldn’t stop you from wanting to experience the adventure again and again.
The Great Circus Mystery Starring Mickey and Minnie is short but incredibly sweet. Fans of classic platformers (or just people who enjoy having a good time playing a good game) shouldn't miss out on this one. The narrative may be weak but it fits what is to be expected from a family friendly Disney game. That being said, this is must-have for those of you who are looking for a good pickup-and-play type of game. Plague or not, who says talking rodents can’t star in a great game?