Games | NES | The Goonies & The Milon's Secret Castle

Article by Jeremy Signor? | October 5, 2010

Milon's Secret Castle

Developer: Hudson
U.S. Release: Sept. 1988
Format: NES

Metroid demolished expectations of what a sidescrolling game could be, opening the door for the NES staple known as the non-linear platformer. Some copied the Metroid formula to the letter, while others altered the structure a bit. Most of these games had an element of clumsiness in one way or another, but none more than Milonís Secret Castle.

Contained within are hated concepts such as invisible doors in illogical locations that only appear when you shoot them. Invincibility after being hit, a genre standard, is nearly nonexistent. And just to prove that the designers had no understanding of the game they were emulating, destructible blocks that looked like normal blocks are often used as obstacles in obscure places. Bonus levels are worse. Hidden within normal blocks, those who would search for them are forced to go on a near-literal pixel hunt.

Itís not like the game doesnít have its heart in the right place. The structure neatly mixes non-linear exploration and stage-based gameplay. Because progressing involves finding the key to each room, getting a game over isnít that big of a setback since knowing what to do is half the battle. But soon even the solid structure begins to unravel into a mass of brick walls. Non-linear games would go through growing pains during the NES era. Making a focused gameplay experience isnít as easy when the goal isnít merely to walk to the right side of the stage. Milon shows the theoretical mess the genre could have been in the wrong hands.

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