Would you like fries with that?

McDonald Land logo

VIRGIN * £25.99 * 1/2 meg * Joystick * Out now

It had to happen. As sure as the sun sets in the west, as sure as the stars are in the sky, as sure as you can never find the TV page in your daily newspaper - it had to happen.
We've eaten their burgers, we've been patronised by their bored, spotty teenage staff, and we've written letters to their complaints department. And Now, God help us all... we can play the computer game.

If you haven't heard of McDonalds then you're dead. I'd lay odds that there's not one person reading this review who hasn't at one time or another sampled the delights offered by these emporia of healthy eating. There will be very few parents who haven't been dragged down the high street by their screaming offspring who genuinely believe that their world will come to an end without the intervention of a Ronald McDonald Happy Meal.

Get your wallets out mums and dads - this one's for the kids. Virgin tell me the game is aimed at pre-high school kids aged between about five and ten (the ones who are old enough to know what they want but still young and shameless enough to damn well cry their heads off until they get it).

It's a platformer as you'd expect, with the intrepid gamester taking the part of Mick or Mack, two of Ronald's young chummies. The Hamburglar - he's the fat one with the stripy sweater on the adverts - has run off with Ronald's magic bag. Ronald has really only got himself to blame however, since he was showing off with said bag at one of the many picnics such an ambassador as the must attend.

Although not mentioned in the story, we in the Game office believe the importance of the bag lies in it's power to transform a dead dog's tongue into a "100 per cent hamburger ina sesame seed bun". But don't quote us on that.

Ronald's got a heavy schedule, so he enlists the help of daring duo Mick and Mack in his quest to recapture his pilfered satchel, insisting for no obvious reason that they gather all the puzzle cards he so carelessly scattered around the various levels as they go.

The levels then - there are seven in all, each watched over by a different one of Ronald's bizarre friends, and each containing about half a dozen sub-levels, making around 40 in total, plus the odd bonus level here and there.

The idea is to avoid the cute little nasties and generally bounce and jump your way to the end of the level, your pockets bulging with the all-important puzzle cards. There's a theme to each one too - for example "Birdies Treehouse" is, as one might imagine, set up in the trees, with clouds and other sky-like objects providing added obstacles.

Other goodies that need collecting are the (in)famous golden arches, McDonald's trademark - these suspend in mid-air and if memory serves me correctly provide bonus points at the end of the level.

A nice touch is the way in which Mick - or is it Mack? - can run upside down on certain platforms as long he's going fast enough, and another is the slow motion effect the gravity-less moon level provides.

The puzzles are quite simple and the colours bright and childish in order to appeal to the younger market, but the platform action suffers a little from the much of a muchness stigma. Where McDonald's Land should really win the hearts of kids - and the pockets of their dads - is in its versatility.

For starters there is a two-player option, whereby Mick and Mack operate not in a competitive way, but join forces to foil the evil Hamburglar together (aaahh).

At the beginning of the first level, a simplified map sows the various levels within Ronald's Clubbouse. Using the joystick you can guide your geezer to whichever level you want to tackle first. Once the first main level has been completed, you are given the choice again with level two.

But that's not all - oh no. When you are on a subsequent level, not only are you given the choice of attempting any sub-level therein (now read this carefully because it gets a bit muddled) can travel back, using the map, through any of the levels you have already completed.
So for example when on the last level, you can choose between about 40 places as to where you want to go. Well I think it's good, anyway.

Now be warned - don't buy this game if you're looking for an innovative challenge, it's just not for you. But for those of you whose kids run around the house all Christmas upsetting aunty Beryl and knocking over everyone's beer, get your hands on this and it'll keep the buggers quiet for a good few days.

McDonald Land logo

Virgin * £25.99

It had to happen sooner or later, didn't it. The big American burger business teams up with Branson's finest to bring you a marketing exercise to remember... for five minutes. McDonalds Land is a cutesy platform game, of the particularly predictable and ordinary variety, dressed up with lots of images of the legendary Ronald McD, McDonalds and Virgin logos, and other symbols designed to provoke your shopping impulses. It's all really rather sad.

Mc Donalds Land is a flat, two-dimensional kind of place with very little in the way of stunning graphics or impressive sound effects. There are platforms to leap on, cute fluffy animals to dodge, and special icons to collect.

Yawn. Virgin tell us that the game is aimed at young kids, but it's doubtful whether even they will be impressed. After all, the hardest cynics we know are under the age of 11. It's almost fun for a while, but it's about as satisfying as a cardboard ring in a rubber doughnut.

Der Soft-Burger

McDonald Land logo

Nintendos quirliger Superheld Mario soll ja bald auch über Amiga-Plattformen turnen - bis es soweit ist, kann man sich die Zeit mit Virgins Fastfood-Ausgabe von "Super Mario World" vertreiben.

Keine Frage, die Gemeinsamkeiten mit den berühmten Klempner-Games von der Konsolen-Front sind unübersehbar: Die Landkarte, über die man Zugang zu den 30 auf sieben Welten verteilten Leveln hat, die bonbonbunten Hintergrundgrafiken, das sprunghafte Spielprinzip, die versteckten Extras - alles erinnert an Nintendos Renommier-Hüpfer. Und was hier nicht an Mario erinnert, das erinnert halt an die Freßstationen des amerikanischen Sponsors dieses Games...

Der ganze Ärger beginnt nämlich damit, daß der fiese Hamburglar die magische Tasche des Werbeclowns Ronald McDonald geklaut hat; aus nicht näher erklärten Gründen müssen deshalb die beiden Helden Mick und Mack nun in jedem Abschnitt eine bestimmte Zahl von Code-Karten finden.

Die beiden können alleine oder (nacheinander) zu zweit losziehen; dabei müssen sie sich mit allerlei Aufzügen, Schwebe-Plattformen und Gleitrampen herumplagen. Außerdem bekommen sie es mit Killer-Schnecken, - Bibern, oder - Weltensittichen zu tun, die sich aber mit den aufgesammelten Wurfgeschossen vertreiben lassen.

Natürlich gibt es auch die üblichen Bonus-Leben und -Punkte, genauso wie tiefe Abgründe mit tödlicher Wirkung auf die je vier Bildschirmleben.

Die Stick-Steuerung funktioniert ordentlich, die ruckelfrei in alle Richtungen scrollende Grafik ist recht hübsch und brauchbar animiert, nur die Begleitmusik klingt etwas kindisch. Auch das Gameplay selbst ist nicht übel - bloß das ausgetüftelte Leveldesign des Vorbilds vermißt man hier doch ein wenig... (rf)

McDonald Land logo

We've had coin-op licences, and film characters licences. Now there's a food licence.

Cute! Console-esque! Platforms! Quite good! Etc! While you try to dispel that nagging sense of déja-vu, I'll just explain that McDonald Land can stake a more legitimate claim than most to the word 'console-esque'.

For a start, certain elements of it bear an uncanny resemblance to Nintendo's Super Mario games - such as the ribbon you run through at the end of each level, the map where you move from level to level, and all the graphics. More fundamental than that, though: McDonald Land is a conversion of an NES game.

It's a bit of a shame, then, that in most other respects McDonald Land isn't very 'console-esque' at all. The control system might be a good place to start. To work at all, a platform game needs a decent control system. That's not something you tend to realise until you come across a game with a really awful one - McDonald Land for example. It's got a terrible control system: horrible, vague, floaty jumps, and a half-hearted attempt at momentum when you're walking around.

Another thing a platform game really ought to have is some evidence of intelligence in the way the platforms are laid out. Whoever drew up the maps for McDonald Land obviously failed to consider that only a small area would be visible to the player at any one time. A lot of guesswork is consequently called for - valiant leaps off the side of the screen in the hope there'll be a platform there; desperately hopeful drops to the ground, possibly landing on solid turf, possibly landing on a passing baddy; that sort of thing. It's vital to maintain a sense of optimism while playing McDonald Land, no matter how relentlessly it might be challenged.

Timing's another thing. In a decent platform game, once you've 'got to know' a level you ought to be able to race through it without any interruptions. Lifts and moving platforms ought to slide seamlessly into place as you approach. Baddies ought to be in just the right position to be jumped over. Not in McDonald Land, though. Platforms are usually just edging out of reach as you arrive, so you have to stand there, drumming your fingers, and wait for them to return.

And there are the graphics, of course. As I said earlier, they've got a very 'Mario' look to them, particularly in the simple design of the scenery. Trouble is, Mario games don't really go overboard with the graphics, and when they do make the effort it tends to be with neat little touches - like the characters and things - rather than the backdrops.

McDonald Land doesn't have any neat little touches, and consequently looks very drab. The sprites are titchy, the use of colour is poor, it's all very 'NES'.

Despite all its flaws, it's not all that bad

Size? Platform games ought to be huge. Console ones always are. McDonald Land apparently has 'over 30' levels, and the ones I saw were miniscule.

The list goes on and on - the nerve-jangling music; the baddies that reappear if you kill them, walk away a bit, and then come back; the way the Ctrl-A-A keys restart the game rather than resetting the Amiga as they ought to; the fact that, although Ronald only asked me to collect four puzzle cards before he'd show me the way to Birdie's house, for some ineffable reason I was obliged to find five.

But the one thing that really, really frustrates me about McDonald Land is that, when it comes down to it, and despite all its flaws, it's really not all that bad. I don't usually enjoy giving rubbish marks to games, but after a few minutes with McDonald Land I was itching to slap an incredibly low percentage on it. But I can't.

On the one hand, I wouldn't actually recommend that you go out and buy it, but on the other, I doubt you'd feel completely ripped off if you'd already done so. So it has to get one of those irritating, wishy-washy, middle-of-the-road sort of marks. Damn.

Oh, and I nearly forgot. I've had it up to here with this 'young player' twaddle. For one thing, anyone who's developed the skills necessary for coping with McDonald Land would also be quite home with - and get a lot more fun out of - games such as Fire and Ice, Zool and Harlequin. (Or, for that matter, great Super Nintendo titles like Super Mario World, Dinosaurs and Castlevania IV - read all about them in Super Play; issue 2 on sale now).

Also, of course, I'd sooner die than let Ronald McDonald near any child of mine.