McDonald’s, being the ubiquitous fast food chain in the United States, is quite the low hanging fruit. It is most associated with perpetuating obesity by dealing in food that is almost entirely fat and salt with no nutrition in between. I mean, they’re a corporation, which means, by law, their first priority is pleasing their shareholders, and they legally can’t intentionally shoot themselves in the foot if they one day grow a conscience and decide their customers’ health is more important to them. They’re basically like drug dealers, since their clients always have the option of preserving their well-being, but social pressures and chemical addiction means they choose to continually dine on nutritionally bereft grease.
Not that I’m here to wag fingers, I’m just demonstrating how easy it is to go off on an entity like McDonald’s. I personally enjoy a good quarter-pounder every now and then when I’m in the mood for something that tastes sweet and salty and absolutely nothing like beef. I prefer to get my salt and fat content from places like Popeye’s, Wendy’s, and Five Guys Burgers and Fries, which are probably no better for me, if we’re being honest.
Oh, right, we’re here to talk about games. So, back in the 80’s and 90’s, when McDonald’s was committed to getting young people fat by promoting their goods with fun mascots, they also dabbled in the video game market. The most notable was probably M.C. Kids, a clone of Super Mario Bros. 3 that was so prominent that you can now check just about any retro game store’s bargain bin and pull out a copy.
The Genesis got what was probably the most interesting use of the license, which was McDonald’s Treasure Land Adventure. What made it interesting is that, rather than being a quick and cheap cash-grab, it was made by legendary developer, Treasure. Yeah, the makers of Gunstar Heroes actually made a game about Ronald McDonald and his friends, and, golly, it was weird.
The plot involves Ronald McDonald finding one quarter of a treasure map and instantly vowing to himself to acquire the other pieces through any means necessary. Unfortunately for him, the other three pieces are in the hands of “bad guys” (seriously, the game refers to them as such). So, even though he has absolutely no claim to the other pieces, Ronald sets out to assemble the map. I’m not really sure what I expected here in terms of a plot, but if you’re looking for a creativity in this game, you won’t find it in the narrative.
The levels, on the other hand, shows Treasure’s propensity for the unique. What starts off as your typical grasslands, eventually transitions onto the back of a train, into a tropical sea full of pirate ships and islands, before landing on something much stranger. The variety on display matches some of the more situation rush styles that Treasure has dabbled with in Gunstar Heroes and later in Dynamite Headdy. For a licensed game, a lot of work went into making each small area look unique.
The gameplay itself is fairly routine, though it is often adapted to fit whatever mutation has afflicted the environments. You can shoot magic, cling to hooks directly above you by extending a scarf, and, of course, jump. Hidden throughout the environments are various power-ups that extend your health gauge or upgrade your attack. You can also get these in stores that dot the map.
Individual stages are extremely short, but several of them are strung together in each of the worlds. Each of the worlds is capped off in a boss, which are maybe less interesting than you’d find in your typical Treasure game, but they’re at least visually appealing.
Each of the worlds has one of the secondary McDonald’s characters, like the Hamburglar or Grimace, to find and interact with. They all require gems off your health bar before they’ll help you get to the next area.
Okay, let’s take another step back up here. This is something I get caught up with; the gems are often referred to as though they’re something the characters eat. Despite all the diversity in world themes and enemies, there’s very little reference to the McDonald’s restaurant outside the characters and the odd appearance of the golden arches. None of the pick-ups are food related, nor does food factor into any of the design. These gems seem to be all that people want to eat.
Bosses are only vulnerable once you feed them a gem from your health bar, because apparently your magic only works while people are chewing. You bribe a guard with gems so he’ll lapse into a food coma. These people aren’t trolls or gorons, so why are they eating gems? Wouldn’t this make more sense if you were feeding people fries, burgers, or happy meals? Why is no actual food depicted in this game? Is there a law I don’t know about? Did McDonald’s have a moral crisis that resulted in them realizing that advertising their body bending meals to children might be a bit misguided? What the heck!?
BODY BENDING BURGERS
McDonald’s Treasure Land Adventures is actually a pretty enjoyable experience for most of its runtime. It’s over pretty quickly, especially because the game itself is dead simple. I maybe have only died a handful of times on boss encounters, and had such a massive stockpile of lives and continues that it was embarrassing. Part of this is because there’s a minigame where you pay some money and play a simple match-3 game that let’s you win various power-ups, and I was really good at it. It was all unnecessary in the end, but at least the bonus game is moderately entertaining.
That’s probably because the game was made for kids, which is funny, because I’m pretty sure they’re all afraid of clowns. I don’t have a problem with clowns, not because I find them entertaining, but more because I can see the human under all that make-up. Yet, pretty much everyone I meet is creeped out by them and that seems to get passed down to their children. I don’t know who keeps the birthday clown business going, but that can’t be a sustainable line of work.
Sorry, I got off topic again. McDonald’s Treasure Land Adventures can be an enjoyable experience, but aside from its creative design, there’s very little reason to play it. It’s not a very meaty experience, if you’ll pardon the pun. Generally, if you’re a fan of Treasure (the developer, I mean, because if you’re a fan of buried loot, you’ll be disappointed), the whole game absolutely reeks of their touch, so you’ll definitely find something to like. For everyone else, you’re better off with something like Gunstar Heroes.
This review was conducted on a Sega Genesis Model 2 (Rev VA3) using an original cartridge copy of the game. It was paid for by the author, who is now very hungry.