I’m going to look at a game that was never released in Europe – Circus Caper or asa it’s known in Japan, Moeru! Onisan. The literal translation for that by the way is ‘Burn! Older Brother’ which is a much darker title for a game. Circus Caper is a side scroller and was released in mid 1990 in North America by a company called Advance Communication Company (catchy name for your company) who also created Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for the NES, of the worst games for the console which is definitely saying something. I don’t have high hopes for this game with the information given, but the idea of a circus based side scroller makes me want to give this title a chance and who knows, it may surprise me.
Before I delve into the gameplay I want to point out the unusualness of the story as to how you, the protagonist, is thrust into the common situation of rescuing your sister Judy from the bad guys as it’s a little more, shall we say unsettling, than usual. You and your sister stumble across the circus that’s in town and she really wants to go, but unfortunately you are out of money. But fortunately a mysterious clown at the says the kids can have free tickets if they roll the dice he has correctly which isn’t the best way to run your business, but based on the fact that both you and your sister had no idea the circus was even in town until it arrived, I’m going to assume they aren’t the most professional bunch. It’s your lucky day as Judy rolls the dice correctly (no matter what they randomly roll you always win), yet sadly there’s only one ticket remaining which the clown gives to Judy. Like any responsible sibling who has presumably been left in charge of looking after what appears to be his younger sister, you allow her to go into the circus on her own. Once the show ends and you don’t meet your sister at the exit you become suspicious. This is when the magician, Mr. Magic turns up to inform you they have stolen your sister and that she is theirs now. Everything about it is very sinister and creepy and feels quite dark, and maybe the idea is to teach children to be careful around strangers but it just feels wrong either way.
As for the gameplay itself the game is quite weird. There’s a lot going on all at once and your movements are quite excessive. You jump incredibly high, your feet and hands become unusually large attacking and must unusual is that when you duck by pressing down you actually bend over backwards in an impressive feat of flexibility. There’s minigames in each level but it’s the first one that is the most notable as you and a bear jump in tandem over a fire in a room that seems to be under the stands. Make a mistake and you or the bear literally become ablaze which actually makes the Japanese title translation apply in this instance. Overall the game is quite difficult due to the sheer amount going on, but at least the levels are short so that’s something. The bosses are again creepy and this whole game seems designed to make going to the circus unappealing. I’m not fond of the music either which doesn’t feel in the slightest circus-like but I guess it isn’t awful or unlistenable to at all.
The game is not great and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you are a collector. While it does have some good things going for it graphically that’s not enough to save the fact that overall it isn’t enjoyable. If you’re curious about the story and pre-game cut scenes then you’re better off looking it up online somewhere as it’s probably the most interesting part of the game.