Milon’s Secret Castle
This 8-bit era black sheep, according to the Internet – MILON’S SHITTY ASSHOLE! TRIAL AND ERROR! MOSTLY ERROR! THERE IS ONLY ONE MAHARITO – FOR ME TO POOP ON!
Stuff a sock in it and go kiss me where the great Hank split me.
Milon’s Secret Castle might seem to hate you. It has stiff controls and minimal help for the player. In-game hints are bare and awkwardly translated, critical exploration mechanics never explained. I only got started thanks to a Nintendo Power blurb describing how to find the hidden items needed to beat the first floor.
But that was enough of a foothold into a world of trippy calliope crack – bizarre enemies, rooms with varied layouts and trickery, a catchy soundtrack, and assorted nifty detail. One room spells out Hudson, the name of the developer. The bonus area, accessed via hidden music boxes, begins its song with basic percussion and adds instruments on each subsequent round – and finally, a harmonizing melody that felt like a well-earned reward for finding the last box. An easily missed balloon escape is a one-off mechanic with its own musical flourish. This charm enraptured me for hours as I bludgeoned my way through the game.
For all of its obtuse and rough-hewn difficulty, Milon’s Secret Castle is surprisingly forgiving. Past the first floor, continues are unlimited. The castle is a hub area, so dying isn’t much of a setback. Your health gauge can be permanently upgraded and refilled by farming enemies, a lifesaver between a tricky room and upcoming boss battle. You gain more abilities as well – spring-fueled jumps, shrinking, floating, bigger and stronger bubbles to fire. This sense of progression gave me the sense of building on experience rather than beating my head on a pastel brick wall.
I will admit to another request for outside help – calling up Hudson Soft to inquire about reaching the fourth floor. I had the items, but never thought to try the same thing that got me to the second. Even so, I found most of the secrets myself through good old-fashioned dicking around, and I consider beating Milon’s Secret Castle to be my Al Bundy four touchdowns moment of growing up with Nintendo. I also consider this one of the most underrated games in existence, and its quirks are half the fun.
Longplay by MrPopsicle43 (55:36) – No deaths, all music boxes, infinitely better than I ever managed in my childhood.