Overall Rating: 1/5 Stars
Milon’s Secret Castle was released in 1986 for the Nintendo Entertainment System by Hudson Soft. The plotline follows protagonist Milon in the land of Hudson (Hudson Soft was fond of company references, like the Hudson Soft Bee mascot that appears in most of their NES titles as a peripheral character, and even usually to grant invincibility) who must rescue Queen Eliza from Castle Garland using his feet, his wits, and the ability to shoot an infinite supply of bubbles in a slightly upward trajectory. Despite the formulaic, if not positively so, sound of this plot, Milon’s Secret Castle is instead somewhat regarded as one of the most frustrating video games of all time, especially for the NES.
The catch is that Milon’s Secret Castle is, indeed, a castle of secrets. Every room is maze-like, with many hidden items, enemies, and additional rooms throughout. This is where this video game begins to annoy and aggravate. Since many of these finds are invisible and require being shot at with a bubble, and many of the in-game blocks can be eliminated by bubbles to potentially reveal hidden objects, this video game essentially requires the player to nimbly maneuver around enemies, killing them with bubbles, while mindlessly firing at every square inch of the area and blindly hoping to find the necessary trinkets to continue, or the doorway to the shop at which the trinket can be obtained.
Even the brainless irrational searching mechanism would not be so intolerable, except for a few specific, distinctive challenges throughout. For example, one particular block must be pushed to the side at a certain portion of the game, but it is the only block that ever gets pushed; it would be completely unfair to expect a player to ever naturally come to the conclusion to push it, yet the developers included that side quest anyway. In another example, a room appears blank at first, only to later reveal a mini-boss character. This is definitely not the only NES video game to use such a tactic, but it is still indicative of an odd mindset for creating a game. Where sort of reaction were this cartridge’s makers aiming for? And what sort of gamer would find this particular kind of challenge more enjoyable than traditional gaming choices that were designed to entertain rather than perturb? On a slightly off-topic note, how did the people behind Super Pitfall not learn from this mistakes as they used similar tactics to utterly destroy what could have been a beloved powerhouse franchise? Perhaps puzzling queries like these are the true Secrets of Milon’s Castle.
Graphics & Sound
Average, at best.
It might be said that the idea was interesting: A puzzle-like platformer tinged with an isolation theme with a cavernous castle as a backdrop. However, to pull off such a dubiously ambitious project, some specific design flaws would have had to have been addressed first, and they were not. Yet another piece of evidence: There is no save feature, not even a password option, yet your character only has one life, and dying brings you back to the very beginning of the castle quest. The bizarre part is that, actually, if the player holds left on the directional pad and presses start, that player gets to start where they died previously as long as they have collected at least one of the crystals needed as part of the adventure. Why not just let the player have more lives? Or, a better question: Why not mention this feature in the instruction booklet, in-game, or some other source somehow other than irrationally expecting the game-player to figure this out intuitively?
It could perhaps be forgiven as a very early release for the NES, and it is at least a complete game without enormous glitches, bugs, or outright incompletions. But even then, its only appeal is as an endurance test, not as an actual source of fun. There are hundreds of other NES video games that can be chosen for fun; but if you want frustration instead, try Milon’s Secret Castle and its rating of one star out of five. What a ridiculous game.