The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle
Honey Bunny is being held prisoner in a castle and only Bugs can save her, but you’d have to read the manual to know that. I had no manual back when I played The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle on my Game Boy, so I thought maybe it had some kind of escape theme. Years later I discovered the real story, but that didn’t really matter. Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle is an action-puzzle game, and a fun one at that.
I was obsessed with completing this game as a kid, spending hours trying to master it and using dozens of sheets of paper to write down my passwords (yep, no save slots). The music and sounds are now permanently imprinted on my memory, and always make me feel like dancing. It is a game with personality, mixing a distinctly Japanese flavour with the traditional Looney Tunes humour and animation.
And it’s one of those rare games for which the portable version is actually better than the console original. Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle on the NES is an okay game, possessing all the same mechanics and pretty much the same art as its Game Boy follow-up, but feels considerably more frustrating and less polished (partly due to improved level design on the Game Boy). The extra year -- the NES version was released in 1989; the Game Boy release came in 1990 -- was clearly put to good use.
Your task is to collect all the carrots in each level, without getting caught by any of the other Looney Tunes characters (who populate the levels). To do this you have only your wits and the items scattered around the levels. Boxes and trolleys may be pushed off ledges to crush the other characters, while a boxing glove can be fired like a projectile to knock them out, and an invincibility potion gives you a limited-time ability to kill enemies on contact. Both you and the enemies die in a puff of smoke.
Each enemy has a different movement pattern. The Sylvester variations move freely through the levels, entering lifts and walking up or down stairs. They tend to move towards you -- in a roundabout fashion. Daffy often stands still when you stop, and moves when you move. Others pace from side to side, or follow you across a platform. They get smarter and more devious with each level -- to the point where you may want to hit something out of frustration at misreading a pattern.
There is also a nifty little feature that lets you playback a video of your previous level-run, such that you can show off to your friends how great you are or see where you went wrong. I vaguely recall finding it useful later in the game, which has some 80-odd levels, as a way to scout out the level layout without worrying about running into an enemy.
The controls are much tighter and more responsive on the Game Boy version than the earlier NES release, where Bugs would walk one additional step when dropping down ledges or staircases. In the Game Boy version, he will stop more-or-less on a dime, and will quickly change direction (except on staircases, where he seems to always take two steps automatically). The level design is also slightly different between versions, with the Game Boy version seeming less repetitive. The music is largely the same, though -- jazzy, upbeat, and always making me bob my head to the rhythm.
Love that music.
Curiously, the Game Boy version of Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle was released in Japan as Mickey Mouse, with the same levels and most of the same music (but different character sprites and hearts instead of carrots). And a weird licensing agreement resulted in the prior NES version to be released in Japan as Roger Rabbit. Kemko developed all these versions, in addition to most of the later Crazy Castle games.
Have you played any of the Crazy Castle games? Which is the best? What do you think about the idea of releasing the same game in different territories with little more than a sprite swap? Let us know you thoughts in the comments.
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