Mappy, a plucky mouse detective, is one of many arcade game mascots lost to time, having only starred in a few games over the years. While the character has guest-starred in various Namco games over the years (and makes a clever cameo in Super Smash Bros. for Wii U and 3DS), the biggest role Mappy's had is in a web series from the defunct ShiftyLook website. Most of his other games have stayed Japan-exclusive, save for 1988's Mappy-Land, an NES sequel to the original arcade game. Mappy-Land is a primitive, repetitive platformer, but does contain a certain charm that fans of the golden age of arcades will enjoy.
Mappy-Land may as well be called "Cat and Mouse." Mappy has to collect six items in each stage while avoiding cats and other enemies. Stages are made up of several different platforms, which Mappy can access via trampoline, and there are various traps and environmental hazards that both help and hurt him. While enemies will kill Mappy on contact, it's easy to fool them by moving quickly and using the trampolines wisely - trampolines can only be jumped on three times, though, before disappearing temporarily, so it's important to make quick decisions. Mappy also has several traps that distract the cats, such as fish. After collecting all the items, the exit opens and Mappy makes his way to the next area; it's a familiar formula from this title's era.
There's not too much variety in Mappy-Land - there are only eight environments, which are used over and over again in the same sequence, with remixed layouts and different items; Mappy has to collect cheese for the first eight stages, then a ring, and so on. The challenge does ramp up, with faster enemies and more hazards, but it's disappointing to go through the same eight backgrounds. There is a tiny story that concludes at the end of the eight-level sequence, which at least suggests some progression, but completing four sequences simply loops the player back to the beginning.
Mappy-Land's colourful art style and simple songs are appealing for an early NES game, and the enemies have different clothes in each stage that are related to the theme, such as the wild west. There are a few secret bonus stages to discover, and a level-select feature allows players to start from wherever they choose.
Like all Virtual Console releases, Mappy-Land's appeal is limited to those who enjoy the retro style and play mechanics. Mappy-Land is a fun, if slight, game that shows its age in the lack of variety. Fans of old-school arcade games will likely enjoy this one, but don't expect anything particularly sophisticated or groundbreaking.