Ah, Kemco... you're not always great at bringing in the quality... After all, you game us The Bugs Bunny Birthday Blowout, and that one wasn't spectacular. But every once in a while, Kemco, you know how to strike gold. That's where The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle comes in. Within the confines of a very simple concept lies a significant amount of fun. That's right: there's a fun licensed non-Capcom game on the NES. Be thankful they didn't ruin the Bugs Bunny franchise COMPLETELY for that generation of gamers.
To be fair, this wasn't even really a Bugs Bunny game to begin with. Taking notes from the classic Super Mario Bros. 2 fiasco courtesy of Nintendo, The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle is, in fact, an imposter! This was actually released as a Roger Rabbit game in Japan, but because Kemco did not have the license to use that franchise's characters overseas (that honour going to LJN and their manurefest of an NES game, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?"), the game had to be significantly changed to reflect a license Kemco could acquire. Luckily, the Looney Tunes license just happened to be available, and with a few easy sprite swaps (switching one rabbit for another shouldn't be a big problem), the Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle was born. This practice was repeated in several of the handheld Crazy Castle titles where Mickey Mouse was the original protagonist, but again, no license.
I say, I say, boy, you better run!
The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle hardly qualifies as your standard castle. There are just way too many clones of Sylvester the Cat, Wile E. Coyote, Daffy Duck, and Yosemite Sam skulking around with the sole intent of disemboweling a wise-cracking hare for this setting to seem even remotely normal. There are sixty stages in all (or are they floors? I really can't tell.), each one requiring you to play the role of Bugs Bunny as he traverses large rooms spanning multiple screens and collects all of the carrots laying around, all the while avoiding those bloodthirsty toons. Luckily, there are stairs and doorways to help you sneak past these oft-daft characters. Also working in your favour are a few handy items to aid you in your survival, such as gloves for knocking out an enemy (permanently, that is), an invincibility potion, and large hefty objects for dropping in what is essentially a "death from above" sentiment. Yet even with all these extras at your disposal, the most important offense is a killer defense, so use those effective evasion skills you learned running from amorous girls on the schoolyard to avoid trouble!
Survive, and not only do you advance to the next stage, but you also get an extra life automatically AND a password! That's right: a password after EVERY stage. A level may only take a minute or two to complete, but that's still a minute or two you may not want to waste later, making this extravagant password system all the more pleasant. Plus it's only four letters long! What a novel length! I could even MEMORIZE those!
...but that's pretty much it. I realize it all sounds pretty simplistic... and it is. And with a simple-sounding game comes an equally simple appearance. The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle is relatively bland for its time. Spread amongst 60 levels are only about 3 different locales: standard brick castle, pipe maze, and ...um... barn? Really? A barn? Seriously? This IS a crazy castle. None of the areas are particularly poppy (though kudos to Kemco for making green on purple look acceptable), but it allows you to more easily focus on the task at hand in the foreground. Likewise, the music is also slim pickings with heavy bouts of repetition throughout, though what's there isn't bad. (In fact, some songs may end up being the most memorable parts.) Presentation isn't the game's strong point; heck, Bugs Bunny doesn't even look like his usual self on the title screen.
The game isn't entirely a cakewalk, but it's a very tolerable game in terms of overall difficulty. I'm still pleased to have this wacky game as part of my NES collection. It boasts a simple concept that anyone can adapt to and enjoy. The humour of the Looney Tunes franchise may be shockingly absent, but The Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle is a good way to burn off an afternoon. And isn't that everybody's goal in life?