A Hudson Soft game released for the NES and Game Boy in 1988, Milon’s Secret Castle was never popular like Super Mario Brothers or The Legend of Zelda. Probably due to its obscure gameplay and the difficulty of the levels. However, if you want a challenge that will keep you busy for a long time, this is the game for you!
Story (4 out of 5)
Milon lives in a country in which everyone communicates with music. However, Milon doesn’t know how and therefore can’t talk to anyone. Frustrated with his situation, he sets off on a quest to find out if there are people like him out there. On his way he stops by Queen Eliza’s place, Castle Garland, and finds it has been taken over by demons, and the Queen is being held captive. Milon has to traverse the four levels of the castle in order to rescue her.
I know the save the princess/queen storyline is cliché, but this one is different. It’s cute and charming the way the story is laid out, about a boy who will defend the land he was going to abandon. He wants to save them even if he doesn’t know what they are saying. Milon is a really sweet hero.
Gameplay (4 out of 5)
This is what people mean when they say the game is difficult. You get only one life throughout the whole game, and if you die that’s it. Thankfully, with the Wii Virtual Console, you can at least save your progress for later. Inside the castle, Milon has to work his way up to the next floor through various levels and a boss (for each floor). However, it is not a straight forward matter. With the bubbles that Milon shoots, you must destroy blocks and discover a key and a door in order to move on. None of it is straight forward or even helped along by the game. There are constantly re-spawning enemies that must be dispatched with Milon’s bubbles and every inch of every level must be searched for any secrets pertaining to how to continue.
The Wiimote works nicely, once you figure out the various things Milon can do. His movement it limited to walking (controlled with the directional pad) and jumping and blowing bubbles (buttons 1 and 2). However, using the directional pad you can aim the bubbles either up or down (up is the default for some reason). This is very helpful in discovering some to the castle’s secrets. Oh, and you can jump and hit your head on blocks, ala Mario, to discover some secrets too.
All in all, this game makes you think. It is a puzzle game more than an action adventure game in a lot of ways. Nothing is told to you and you must figure it all out on your own. Also, you don’t start the game with full life, so I suggest you hang around the bottom for a moment and kill enough enemies to fill your life bar. Hearts don’t come often!
Graphics and Sound (4 out of 5)
For such an old NES title, I actually found the graphics charming. There isn’t much in the background to look at besides various shades of brown bricks, but the enemies are cute and Milon is absolutely adorable. Unlike Mario, you can actually see his little smile and how bright he is (dressed in blue and pink) compared to the backgrounds. He is just a good guy trying to make the world a better place and it shows!
The songs are actually quite catchy in Milon’s Secret Castle. The music is upbeat and fun, unlike the settings would suggest, but it works somehow. They have an almost dream-like quality which is very relaxing when playing such a difficult game. I found myself smiling even when I died just because the music made me so happy.
Fun (4 out of 5)
This is a different sort of fun than most gamers today can probably appreciate. It’s not a relaxing fun, but it makes you think. It can be frustratingly hard at times, but once you find a key or a puzzle starts making sense, you will be having the time of your life.
Overall (4 out of 5)
This is a great game, deep down. Sure it’s hard and you have to fight for every clue you get, but what’s wrong with that? It was probably an experimental game at the time, but I say the experiment worked. If you want a challenge that makes you use your mind more than your reflexes, try out Milon’s Secret Castle. For 500 Wii points, it’s worth it.