The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle definitely feels its age. The graphics are bad, the levels are repetitive, the gameplay is unforgiving and the concept is simple. In fact, the game is so old that the characters don't even stop animating when you pause the game (they just walk in place). Yep, this 8-bit NES game certainly feels 21 years old. But while I'll freely admit that the game is a bit archaic, I can't help but fall in love with its simplicity. It's definitely not very deep and doesn't make sense half of the time, but the moment I start playing it I never want to stop.
Crazy Castle is essentially a maze game, sort of a side-scrolling Pac-Man with cartoon characters. You play Bugs Bunny who appears to be trapped in a series of increasingly complicated castles, dungeons, houses, etc. The object is for you to collect all of the, you guessed it, carrots. Unfortunately, in order to do that you're going to have to avoid the rest of the Looney Tunes gang, including Yosemite Sam, Sylvester the Cat, Daffy Duck and even Wile E. Coyote. What Daffy Duck has against Bugs I'll never understand, but they're just there to round out a familiar cast of characters.
The crux of the gameplay has you walking up stairs, using stairs and getting sucked through pipes, all with the intent of getting up to the different parts of each maze. You quickly figure out what door takes you where and what each enemy is capable of. Much of the time is spent luring your enemies away from the carrots, which means that you're going to have to memorize where all of the escape routes are. Bugs can't jump (which seems ironic, seeing as he's a bunny), so you'll have to always make sure and know where each enemy is at all times.
Thankfully Bugs has a few power-ups at his disposal. The most useful item is a boxing glove which Bugs can throw at any enemy. Unfortunately, once you've knocked somebody out (taking them out of the room for good), you can't use the glove again. Another item makes you invisible for a short period of time. You'll also find a few large items that you can push off of a floor, falling several stories and (if you time it right) smacking an enemy below. Bugs is not a master of CQC (Close-Quarters Combat), so you'll need to use these power-ups sparingly.
The levels start out extremely basic, maybe even a little too easy. However, it isn't long before you're having to map out which carrots to get first and which paths are the least dangerous. There's a lot of skill involved with beating some of the later levels, which is certainly the type of thing I like to see in a maze game. You'll also find that every year levels the background changes, adding some brand new escape methods. Your goal may never change, but the developers added a surprising amount of diversity to the single-player story mode.
The graphics and sound are okay, definitely nothing to write home about. Bugs is small and made up of only a couple of colors. The same goes for the supporting cast, which often makes them look even goofier than they do in the actual cartoons. You'll also find that many enemies are repeated with color swaps, something I can't blame them for. The game's presentation isn't going to win it any awards, but at least the game is fun to play.
While you'll no doubt see that I recommend Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle, I do have some issues with the sluggish controls. Let's face it, the game is 21 years old and some of the old timey gameplay cliches are front and center. It's not always easy to turn around at a moment's notice, and don't even think about changing direction when you're climbing stairs. There's also the issue of not having a jump button, which really makes no sense at all. The rest of the issues pertain to the normal sluggish feeling that many old games have. Thankfully most people will be able to overlook some of these small issues.
The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle is a fun variation of the standard Pac-Man theme, giving us characters we love and enough variety to keep you going. There are definitely a lot of things I would have changed, but what was fun about the game still remains intact. Don't shy away from this action game just because it uses licensed cartoon characters, this is one maze game you won't mind getting lost in.