I’ve debated whether or not I should review this game for some time, due to its complexity, but I’ve decided that now is the time. There are advanced games for the 2600, Solaris, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Dragonstomper being excellent examples, but there is one that I think beats them all out in terms of volume, and complexity. Mountain King is one of those OG games that never seems to get talked about anymore, kinda like Miner 2049’er or the Jumpman series of games, games that were big for a few years until they petered out and were largely forgotten. Originally designed by E.F. Dreyer though the 2600 port, which is the one I’m looking at, was programmed by none other than our old friend Ed Salvo working at VSS Inc. who were contracted to make the 2600 port. I don’t know which system Mountain King originally game out on, it experienced a blanket release on all the major consoles and computers in 1983 with the Colecovision game coming out the following year. Due to this game’s size and complexity the game came on a 12K chip and required an extra 128 bytes of RAM. So… a game three times the size of an average 2600 game with twice the RAM, this had better look good!
Erm… Well I won’t call it the pinnacle of graphics but it really isn’t all too bad considering the system it’s on. There are horizontal lines absolutely everywhere, as well as patches of white dots that are supposed to be diamonds. Alright, so I think we can all agree that this game is very graphically simple, almost everything is made out of lines and the main character is a stick figure but the fact that there is so much of everything with no detectable hint of flicker is absolutely incredible. Actually I find the little stick figure protagonist to be absolutely adorable, he has a bunch of little animations for different heights that he falls from a slight bend of the knees to being knocked on his ass. Also whenever you hold up the d-pad while not in front of a ladder your little stick dude will turn up his arms and shrug like he’s saying “What do you want ME to do about it?” I also feel the need to mention how clever the flashlight is, yes you have a flashlight, the objects you’re looking for can only be illuminated by the flashlight so what do you do? Well, you make the sprites of the objects black so you can only ever see them with the flashlight; this is clever programming at its finest. Alright so the graphics are simplistic but at the same time they are also very clever, will the sounds do the same?
Well, yes actually. Starting off with you’ll only hear the obnoxious chirp of collecting diamonds, but once you collect a certain amount all you’ll hear is silence. As you plod away in silence you’ll hear it the faint whisperings of music, go towards it and find the source, once you find the right one you’re ready. When you collect the Golden Crown you’ll be treated to a good rendition of ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’ by Edvard Greig, the only problem I have with it is that two notes are out of place and it really bothers me as a bit of a music snob.
This is a game with an ending, an ending that I’ve never seen, because make no mistake this is a very hard game, for several reasons. Let’s get the basic premise out of the way, you are an explorer who is traversing the long lost diamond mine in an attempt to find the Golden Crown. To acquire the golden crown you must complete a series of somewhat convoluted steps, you must first get 1000 points by collecting diamonds, and then you must locate the flame spirit. The flame spirit can be found by listening for its music, this isn’t the best way to find it though since there are several treasure chest dotted around the map that also give off ghostly music, you’ll know it’s the right one if you see an incredibly brief flicker of flame, then you have the right one. Once you collect the flame you must then take it and offer it to the skull spirit who will then grant you entrance to the temple and the Golden Crown. The game isn’t over when you get the crown though, oh no you’re only halfway there, you must then escape. You must make your way to the perpetual flame that burns at the highest point of the mine while dodging crown stealing bats that will steal your crown, if that happens then the game is basically over. If you thought that this seems fairly simple then you’re right, it is fairly simple, what makes it difficult is the time limit and the controls, no matter which difficulty you play you’re on a time limit. On level one you have a grand total of eight minutes to beat the whole game and only 1:30 to get the crown to the flame once you get it, in comparison to level eight where you have only three minutes total, 40 seconds to find the flame spirit and one minute to get the crown to the flame which if you ask me is impossible. The controls will be your doom, instead of jumping with the button like most other platform games, in Mountain King you have to push and hold your joystick at a perfect 45 degree angle to get your guy to jump, it is terrible to do with a joystick and only slightly more tolerable with a Genesis D-pad, honestly the best way to control this game is with a keyboard and even then it’s entirely frustrating. This is some of the tightest platforming you’ll ever to in a videogame, if so much as a shadow of a pixel touches a platform mid-jump you are going to fall like a sack of bricks.
The controls ruin this game for me, even when playing it with a keyboard the game is a frightful chore to control. Everything in this game was set up for success but the controls just tear it all down. But credit where it’s due you can actually get to the secret hidden world if you know exactly where to jump, according to Ed Salvo he put it in there intentionally, because the Atari 8-bit version he was using had it so it then went into the 2600 version. If you’re still interested in buying a copy then you can find them for 10-20 dollars on Ebay loose, and around 20-60 for a boxed copy. It’s Collector’s Zone for Mountain King, the price just can’t justify this frustrating experience.