PUBLISHER: U.S. Gold
RELEASE DATE: 11/90 – (EU)
In true Hollywood form, the “Mission: Impossible” tv/film series makes secret agent work look sexy and dangerous. Insane stunts. Trysts with mysterious women. Devil-may-care globetrotting. Secret agents have it all! Not so says Impossible Mission. The liveliest thing you’ll do here is somersault over robots. The rest of the time you’ll hack Apple II computers, travel in elevators, and put puzzles together, like a retired octogenarian.
Your very possible mission is to stop the evil Professor Elvin Atombender from stealing national secrets. Infiltrate his enormous underground base, break into all the base’s rooms via a series of elevators, and check every object you see for puzzle pieces. These pieces, properly assembled, will provide clues to the location of Atombender’s control room.
Each room is comprised of platforms, ascending/descending lifts, a computer or two, evil robots, and random objects, like furniture and microwaves. You only have six hours game time to explore the entire base, so you’ll want to search the objects (stand in front of them and press ‘Up’ on the D-pad), collect any puzzle pieces, and get out as quickly as you can.
The robots are your main barriers, though certain rooms do feature orbs that chase you around. You have no attack, just an epic-looking somersault that helps you bound over them. If you find a Sleeping Robot card while searching through objects, you can disable the robots through the computer. The orb, however, is an unstoppable force.
The robots’ movement is always varied. Some zap lightning out of their mid-section. Some follow your movement. Others don’t move at all. Sometimes they stand in front of items so you can’t search them. Whether you just touch them or get zapped, one hit and you’ll start back at the entrance of the room. While you have seemingly unlimited lives, each time you die, ten minutes are deducted from the six hour game time.
While traversing between rooms on the elevator, check your handy pocket computer to assemble the puzzle pieces. There are thirty-six total red, blue, and green pieces. Only pieces of the same color can fit together, and sometimes they have to be turned upside-down or backwards in order to connect.
The puzzle pieces look awful and are hard to assemble. I understand their shoddy preschool look is the point, but that doesn’t make me hate them any less. If you get stuck (as I often did), use the Telephone option on the computer to find out if you have enough pieces to solve a puzzle or correct the position of the displayed puzzle pieces.
Publisher U.S. Gold seemed to relish porting really old games to aging consoles. Gauntlet had a five year journey between its official arcade release in 1985 and its Master System port in 1990. Impossible Mission goes all the way back to 1984. Perhaps this egregiously late port would have been ok, if Zillion hadn’t expanded the Impossible Mission formula three years earlier. You still search rooms and hack computers, but the game adds more playable characters, a fleshed-out story, better action and atmosphere, and less obtuse puzzles. Once you’ve experienced Zillion, Impossible Mission is hard to embrace.
In addition to Zillion‘s presence, Impossible Mission II was released in 1988 for various computers and the NES. Surely this should have been the game that came to the Master System instead of its older brother? Better yet, U.S. Gold and Epyx could have treated Master System owners to a sweet budget-priced two-pack. Make us want it, fellas.
It’s the year 20XX. How does Impossible Mission stack up, away from its poorly timed 1990 release? I will forever hate the puzzles, and I’m lukewarm on rummaging through couches and dresser drawers for puzzle pieces, but the fast-paced elevator-to-room-to-elevator exploration kept me hypnotized. Even when my brain was yelling at me to stop playing such ancient rubbish, I pushed my agile agent further into the base, hoping to find just one more puzzle piece. Hear me well: Zillion will forever be the best version of Impossible Mission on the Master System. That said, Impossible Mission still has a spark of life, however faint.