Mick and Mack: Global Gladiators (Genesis)

It wasn’t so long ago that every major corporation wanted to have their own videogame to draw in some extra cash from the growing market. I’ve already played one of the Cheetos games based off their mascot Chester Cheetah, and I’ve had my eye on 7-Up’s Cool Spot games since they always looked fun. But today we’re going to be playing a game from one of the biggest chains in the world, McDonald’s. Specifically the Sega Genesis game Mick and Mack: Global Gladiators.

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Unlike some of the other corporately licensed games, Mick and Mack: Global Gladiators wasn’t just a big marketing tool for the brand. Instead it tried to spearhead the image that McDonald’s cared about the environment, hence the “Global Gladiators” portion of the name. That’s right, this is an environmentalist game, technically. Not that that the message really matters, or even got through sometimes, but more on that below. Truth be told, I actually owned this game as part of my small genesis collection growing up, and I remember rarely playing it due to it being nearly impossibly hard. Maybe I was just bad at it back then, not that I’ve improved much as a gamer in the interim. Still, this is one of those games that has always been on my “To Beat” list, and its number has finally come up. So join me as we protect the world with the help of good old Ronald McDonald.

Gameplay

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One day, Mick and Mack were out eating at McDonald’s while reading a comic book about the “Global Gladiators”.

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Then out of nowhere, Ronald McDonald magically shows up. Without any explanation, Ronald uses his magic powers to throw the unsuspecting children straight into the comic book they were just reading. And so begins our story.

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Before starting the game proper, I want to point out the recycling mini game, mostly because this is where I spent most of my time playing when I was a kid. It’s a simple game, trash will rain down from the sky and you have to sort it into the correct recycling bin. As some kind of sick joke, there will also be anvils that occasionally fall from the sky as well. I remember loving this part of the game, but I don’t remember it being so hard. The game ends if you don’t almost instantly sort the garbage. If there are ever even just 2 pieces of trash on the ground, you lose.

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But enough about the mini game, onward to the real game. There isn’t really a whole lot of explanation about what’s going on. You start out in a slime world armed with a super soaker full of what I always assumed was mustard. You’ll run around shooting everything in sight and that’s pretty much all you know at this point.

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There are a ton of enemies in this game, most of which shoot projectiles at you. It can honestly feel a bit overwhelming at times. As if you’re in a bullet hell shooter instead of the action platformer that game really is.

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The playfield is also really big for the time with tons of branching paths to choose from to make it to your goal. There are also tons of secrets and collectables like health and extra lives. Not only that, but there are tons of invisible platforms scattered around leading to even more fun secrets.

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In the end, the main objective is very simplistic. All you need to do is make it to the far right of the stage to find Ronald McDonald waiting there for you. Of course, he won’t let you finish the level unless you’ve managed to collect at least 30 of the McDonald’s Arches scattered throughout the stage. I’ve never collected them all, but the counter in the bottom right goes up to 3 digits, so I’m guessing there are at least 100 in each stage. The point being that these are so common that even the slightest bit of effort towards collecting them will reward you with at least 30 before the end of the stage.

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Anyway, make it to the goal and Ronald will carry you away to Slime World 2, which is exactly like Slime World 1, just kind of brown instead of green. The goal remains the same, collect 30 arches, find Ronald, and beg him to let you go back home and finish your meal in peace because you never asked for this.

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But of course he doesn’t listen to your request and instead sends you off to Slime World 3 to do the whole thing all over again. At least the color returned to green, that brown wasn’t very appealing. In any case that’s how this game is going to progress. There are 4 areas each with 3 stages and very little variance in gameplay.

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When you finally manage to escape Slime World, you’ll be brought to the Mystical Forest. Maybe it was just me, but this area made me question the environmentalist message the game was trying to make. Sure, there are some living axes you can destroy, but they’re kind of rarity in these stages.

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Instead the most common enemies you’ll be facing are beavers which are constantly throwing chunks of wood at you. I mean, I guess beavers cut down trees, and an beaver population of this size could understandably do some serious damage to the local environment. But still, I would think you would want to protect the animals anyway.

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Ethics aside, I found the forest to be the hardest section of the game and I think my death count proves that. It wasn’t even the constant barrage of projectiles that made it hard either, it was deceptive traps in the environment. For example, there are a lot of waterfalls in these areas which act as instant death pits. Admittedly, I should know better at this point in my life, but they didn’t look like a threat to me. The water is barely flowing over it, and I can clearly see ground under the water. It’s a very low volume stream that a child should be able to walk through and it just didn’t look like a problem to me.

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I’ll take responsibility for not knowing waterfalls are dangerous. However, this next thing I just can’t brush off. Many of the trees in the area come to a point at the top. Most likely from the beavers chewing on them, which is understandable. However, I can’t accept the fact that these are treated as instant death spikes. They aren’t sharpened spears that could impale little Mack, they are 5 foot around tree trunks. There’s simply no possible way touching a tree trunk like that would kill someone.

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Before we move on from the forest, I just want to point out one last thing. The fish in this area are crazy. A lot of times they’ll just jump up out of the water to make the jumps a little harder. But occasionally they’ll actually come up on the land and start walking around after you. And just look at them. They look like they have giant dentures or something. I just find them really comical and they actually helped to make this area a lot more fun.

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Having murdered every furry little creature in the Mystical Forest, we set our sights on the big city of Toxitown. I can’t help but feel relieved to finally be out of the forest. Toxicity is obviously over flowing with enemies, possibly even more so than the forest was, but it somehow felt so much easier.

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You gotta love Virgin’s self promotion here

I think maybe it felt easier because the I-Beams of the construction site just feel more familiar as platforms. When climbing through the trees in the forest there were a lot of times when I would question the footing. Can I stand on this branch or not? Usually when I was wrong I’d go falling into the water and drown. But the I-Beans don’t have any of that guess work.

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Toxicity also corrects the environmental message that was almost completely absent in the last area. This time around we really are fighting pollution as we destroy living trashcans, living balls of fire, living jack hammers, and even living clouds of pollution. Together with our super soaker full of mustard, we’re really making a difference in this city.

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For all the good we did in the city, we go and ruin it when we move our adventure up to the arctic. There are tons of pipes all over the place, possibly oil pipes of some kind. And these pipes have become the homes to dozens of snow monsters. Or maybe they’re yetis of some kind, I can’t really tell. Either way they look like they’re probably bad for the environment up here in the arctic.

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But at the same time we’re also killing dozens of polar bears, and they’re already endangered as it is. Not only that, but we’re also decimating the arctic bird population. Other than penguins I’ve never even heard of any arctic birds, so they must be super endangered already. And here we are shooting them out of the air with a mustard super soaker.

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Things don’t get much better as we move inside to one of the many arctic caves. Here we get to lay waste to the rare and most certainly endangered arctic bat. At this point I can’t help but feel like the environment would have been better off without my help. It even seems to be defending itself from me now as small localized tornadoes start barreling towards young Mack.

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Venturing deep into the cave, we finally wind up at a dead end. After a leap of faith, we find ourselves face to face with a living wall of ice. No doubt this is the guardian of nature himself. We have done too much damage to the environment while trying to find our way home and now we’re going to be punished for it.

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So naturally, we end up murdering this guardian just as we did all the creatures we’ve murdered up until now. How do we do that exactly? I mean, it’s a giant face on a wall of ice. Well, you just have to do the obvious and spray mustard in its eyes. Eventually the spicy mustard will melt through to his brain and destroy the ice face.

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Only then will Ronald use his magic to bring you back to the restaurant. While it might have originally seemed like the clown had some master plan to help the environment, in the end it seems he may have just been bored and decided to entertain himself for the day by torturing two little boys.

Verdict

Gameplay – 6 / 10

The game mechanics themselves work very well. Everything is very intuitive and the controls are very tight and responsive. However, there are a lot of glaring flaws that make the game very unenjoyable. For starters, there are simply too many enemies, and almost all of them have projectile attacks to just fill the screen with enemy fire. On top of that, you don’t have much if any immunity time after taking damage. So there were times I was pinned down by the enemy because I simply couldn’t break out of their attack pattern. The icing on the cake had to be the lack of bosses though. Without any bosses at the end of the areas, there’s really no sense of accomplishment with anything you’ve done in the game.

Graphics – 9 / 10

The graphics were easily the best part of the game, and probably the only reason I would occasionally play this game back as a kid. This game has some of the best sprite work I’ve seen for the system. All the characters had a lot of detail to them, and their movements were all very fluid. I’m not sure the best way to word this, but everyone had that kind of rubbery animation style to them that you might see in old Mickey Mouse cartoons, and I loved it.

Audio – 8 / 10

While none of the music was very catchy or memorable, it was still very enjoyable. It was all very high energy and fit the game perfectly. There were also a lot of well used sound effects that really held the game together.

Story – 1 / 10

Ronald shows up out of nowhere and torments 2 kids who just wanted to eat their happy meals in peace. Honestly I’m not sure what anyone was supposed to take away from this game. Nothing about it really promotes the McDonald’s brand other than Ronald being an asshole, which isn’t really a good message. Then there isn’t really much of an environmental message either since the second area has you killing whole families of beavers and the final area has you killing polar bears. Sure the slime and garbage where probably bad for the environment, but the message is kind of lost.

Total Playtime – 1h 28m

It a short game, and would have been even shorter if I wasn’t dying all the time. Honestly the difficulty of the game was only there to pad the fact that there wasn’t much of a game.

Total Deaths – 39 Deaths

I’m not sure how anyone was ever expected to beat this game with the default 4 lives and 1 continue the game gives you. There are just too many enemies on screen to survive for any length of time. Really the game’s only saving grace was the fact that enemies didn’t respawn after you died, meaning you had a clear path to get back to where you where from your last checkpoint.

Overall Score – 5 / 10

I’m glad I finally played through this game because it has been bothering me for quite some time. That being said, I won’t lose any sleep if I never play this game again for the rest of my life. It has a lot of potential to be a relatively fun game, but any potential fun is lost under the extreme difficulty. However, even if the difficulty was toned down, there isn’t enough content left to really satiate any gamer’s appetite. Even for the discount bin price it usually sells for now, I still can’t really recommend it. There are plenty of other better games you can buy.

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Oh! Of course! Those were mutant beavers and mutant polar bears. It all makes sense now!

 

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