A fairly decent platformer with many features, treasures, and...flaws.

Many people will conclude that Milon's Secret Castle is an absolutely terrible game. What is interesting though is that this game could have been a really fun and challenging platformer. But what really bogged down the gameplay are the rules of the game combined with other major fundamental flaws. Other than these problems, Milon's Secret Castle is a fairly good platformer loaded with features and a unique side-quest. Anybody in for an endurance test of locating various secrets while making it through the puzzles of Milon's Secret Castle in one video game sitting are in for a treat.

Rules of the Game: 3.0

Let's cut through the chase and say that the rules of Milon's Secret Castle has and will cause many gamers to switch the game off in search of a better title.

Milon's Secret Castle is a big game suited for thrill seekers looking to discover and unlock hidden treasures while getting rid of attacking enemies. Unfortunately, this game has no save or password feature. To make things worse, if your player dies, there's a secret code that must be entered to continue where you left off (available after you defeat the first boss). Otherwise, you'll be starting the whole game all over again when you die. Fortunately, the continue code is given in the NES instruction manual and can be found today on several video game sites.

As mentioned, this game is very complex and loaded with hidden secrets and mysteries. Most players will not have the patience or the time to go through 100% of the entire game, solving every puzzle, searching and finding every piece of treasure, start to finish, in one sitting. It's worth noting that the game developers later discovered this near-fatal flaw when the Game Boy version of Milon's Secret Castle was released in 1993.

Controls: 4.0
The other major flaw of this game is that Milon has no invincibility period when he is hit. This really messes up the play control. In most games, there's a short time period where the hero can't take any damage when injured. But in Milon's Secret Castle, Milon has no recovery period, making it very easy for an enemy to drain Milon's health from full life to zero within seconds. This is yet another reason why this title has been frustrating for many.

Fortunately, the game developers rightfully corrected this flaw in the Game Boy release.

Other than that, the rest of the controls are pretty responsive and right on par. Milon's attack range, although a little awkward, is fairly good. Even though the bubbles don't travel in horizontal lines, both ground and air enemies can still be engaged from safe distances without too much guesswork. You can also fully control Milon and shoot while he's in the air. The control scheme, such as using "A" to jump and "Up" to enter doors, is also consistent with other classic NES platformers.

Anyway, how does Milon's Secret Castle fare with its story, presentation and overall structure? The game actually is not too bad in these fields, though it's not quite perfect either.

Concept/Story: 8.0
Milon's Secret Castle follows the basic "hero rescuing the princess" story, but has added several unique bells and whistles. You play as Milon in a land named after the game's developer, Hudson. The evil demon Maharito has captured Queen Eliza and seized control of Castle Garland. Maharito has also managed to rob seven musical instruments and has spread them all over the castle. One of the more interesting facts of the game is that the people in the Land of Hudson communicate with these musical instruments. Your job is to have Milon venture into the very complex and puzzling castle, find the Queen Eliza's two sacred treasures, and save the queen from the evil hands of Maharito.

Although done before in classic NES titles, this game had a solid concept and offered a good storyline for its time...yet, it's possibly too big for one game session.

Presentation: 6.5
As mentioned, Milon's Secret Castle has a kid-friendly, fantasy/fun theme. The choice of graphics, enemies, music and sound effects exemplifies its theme and therefore offers a presentation that's not bad. The outside castle area for example has a nice presentation, but there are some areas could have been presented better. For instance, Milon has no shooting animation and the music will get repetitive after awhile. The tune that plays in the main levels has a decent track length, but the song is the same for each of the levels and will get annoying after awhile. The presentation isn't the best and it's certainly outdated, but the graphics and sound are not the worst though.

Gameplay: 7.0
Milon's Secret Castle is loaded in rich gameplay and features that actually competes with classic 1980's NES titles, enough where a password or save feature is necessary but not included.

You need to make your way through seven unique rooms (or levels) and a series of trap-infested dungeons to collect well hidden money and items which you will need to unlock new areas of the castle. Along the way, you'll encounter bosses guarding crystal balls and the queen's two treasures which you will need to access the final dungeon. You'll also come across shops where you can buy items. Like most adventure games, each of the rooms and the dungeons can be revisited once you leave while you retain the treasures. This will allow you opportunities to retreat to the starting levels of the game if you need to restock on health or other power-up's.

To make the game more fun, and for added chances for extra money, an optional bonus game is hidden in each of the seven main levels. Here, you'll have a chance to recover the seven stollen musical instruments while you listen to a well composed song that becomes more complete as you obtain more instruments. The unique concept the of the bonus game will inspire you to find all seven bonuses...if you've got the time to do it in one sitting!

As mentioned before, the main gameplay issue are the rules of the game combined with the high level of complexity. Players have to do extensive searching at the start of the game. Finding one of the items necessary to unlock the first boss fight requires very thorough searching within the first two levels. Once the proper steps on how to find some of the secret shops within the seven main rooms are discovered, the rest of the game should flow however. The boss fights are also a bit redundant.

Overall: 6.5

This game is definitely worth a try if you're into search-and-find gameplay while fighting monsters, but the title itself will be an endurance test given the lack of a save or password feature. The game's just too long without it. If you're simply out to look for a decent platformer, Milon's Secret Castle will be just too difficult and frustrating for you.

However this NES game certainly does not deserve to be ranked among the worst of the worst in video games. Compared to unplayable titles like ET for the Atari, Jaws, and Action 52, Milon's Secret Castle is fairly decent. But because of the harsh rules of the game (ie. no passwords or saves) and lack of an invincibility period when Milon is hit, we can see why this title is disliked by many. If you want to give this game a go and explore its rich features all without cheating, go for the "fixed" 1993 Game Boy version of Milon's Secret Castle.