Overview & Gameplay
In Märchen Maze ("Märchen" is German for "fairytale"), the player takes control of a little girl named Alice who has been pulled in to a magical world by a white rabbit. It was originally released to the Arcade before being ported to the PC Engine and Sharp X68000. It would also be added to the Japanese Wii's Virtual Console in 2009.
The Arcade and Sharp X68000 versions use an isometric view while the PC Engine uses a standard overhead view. The game's platforms are all suspended over a bottomless void. Alice can shoot bubbles, technically termed "shabon balls", at the enemy in an effort to knock them off of the floating terrain or destroy them. Holding down the attack button will charge the bubble and make it larger, resulting in greater knockback strength or simply more damage, depending on the enemy.
The enemies are also trying to knock Alice off, too. In fact, Alice does not take damage in a conventional sense: the only way to lose a life is to fall in to the void. Alice comes equipped with several balloons which can rescue her from a fall should one occur. Alice is capable of jumping to avoid obstacles or shots from enemies, or to jump over gaps in the terrain. At the end of each stage is a boss; Alice has a 180 second time limit to get to the end and defeat the boss or else "time over" monsters will appear and attack her. The PC Engine version of the game lacks a time limit.
There are several items which can be found in packages throughout the game. It is possible for power-ups to overlap.
- Balloon: Grants Alice an extra balloon, allowing her to fall off the terrain an additional time. An "extra life", in essence.
- Rabbit Barrier: Temporarily surrounds Alice with a barrier of rabbits, rendering her invulnerable. She can still fall off, though.
- Daikaiten: Makes Alice spin and shoot bubbles in all directions. This item is not in the Arcade version.
- Red Crystal: Worth 500 bonus points.
- Blue Crystal: Makes Alice's bubbles max size without charging for a period of time.
- Yellow Crystal: Temporarily freezes enemies in their tracks.
- Green Crystal: Temporarily gives Alice a three-way bubble shot.
- Purple Crystal: Temporarily increases Alice's movement speed.
- Clock: Adds more time to the timer. This item is not found in the PC Engine version.
- Jump Shoes: These allow Alice to Jump further for a period of time.
Alice loves fantasy stories. One night she was suddenly awakened by a voice from her mirror; it was a white rabbit with a watch! He needs Alice's help to rescue the world of mirrors from the Dark Queen who has conquered it. Drawn in to the mirror, she is given a magic bubble-blowing straw and must free the 9 kingdoms of the mirror world from the Queen's clutches!
Alice: The little girl who is the star of the game. She loves fantasy stories and wishes she was a princess. She's a bit of a crybaby.
White Rabbit: The protector of the mirror world, he calls Alice to come and rescue it. He appears periodically to update the player on how much time the character has left.
Queen of Darkness: The game's final boss, she is currently in control of the mirror world.
Arcade Version Stages
Stage 1: Okashi no Kuni, AKA the Sweets Kingdom. Obviously, a world of sweets! Cakes and tortes are visible below the path Alice must walk on, which resembles a wafer. The stage boss is a witch named Miyahja.
Stage 2: Omocha no Kuni, the Toy Kingdom. It floats above Dali-esque clocks and a giant backgammon board. The boss is a giant wind-up dodo bird disturbingly named "Dead Rooster".
Stage 3: Tsumiki no Kuni, the Building-Blocks Kingdom. It floats above a hedge-maze filled with blocks. The boss is a baby's stacking Daruma toy named Tumbler.
Stage 4: Kikai no Kuni, the machine kingdom. Beneath the floating platforms lies a mass of pipes. The boss is a toy robot named Armeikon.
Stage 5: Sora no Kuni, the Sky kingdom. For some reason most of the platforms here are in the shape of crosses; they float above (obviously) a skyscape. The boss is a helmet-wearing toy swordfish named Raydoc.
Stage 6: Bikkuri no Kuni, the Kingdom of Surprises. It uses a re-colored tileset from the Sweets Kingdom. The boss is a giant toy tortoise creatively named Big Tortoise. For whatever reason, he has a huge nose, and wears shades and a nice hat.
Stage 7: Mushi no Kuni, the Bug Kingdom. Unsurprisingly, it is full of bugs. It re-uses the tile set from the Toy Kingdom, albeit recolored. The boss is some kind of flower/sun thing named Arateeze. At this point, the stages are relatively long!
Stage 8: Heitai no Kuni, the Soldier's Kingdom. It re-uses the tileset from the Building-Blocks Kingdom, of course recolored. This stage is full of playing-card soldiers. The boss is a series of giant disembodied heads of the queen, called "Triple Heads".
Stage 9: Jyoou no Kuni, the Queen's Kingdom. It re-uses the tile-set from the Sky Kingdom, although recolored in a menacing way. There are also floating chunks of rock added. The boss is, of course, the Queen of Darkness herself. Can Alice win? Play it and find out!
PC Engine Version Stages
The PC Engine version has different stages than the Arcade game. Because of the lack of a time limit, many of the stages are much more expansive.
Stage 1: The Sweets Kingdom, just like in the arcade version. The boss is still Miyahja the witch.
Stage 2: The Machine Kingdom. Things start to vary from the arcade version! The boss is still Armeikon.
Stage 3: Midorni no Kuni, the Green Kingdom. A kingdom full of plants and trees.... and slimes! The boss is Arateeze.
Stage 4: Koori no Kuni, the Ice Kingdom. Where there is ice, there are penguins! The boss is Tumbler.
Stage 5: Jikan no Kuni, the Time Kingdom. A strange world of clocks and bubbles. The boss is Triple Heads.
Stage 6: Mizu no Kuni, the Water Kingdom. Alice has to maneuver on floating floating along a turbulent body of water here. Fortunately there are stationary metal platforms for more solid footing. The boss is Raydoc.
Stage 7: Sora no Kuni, the Sky Kingdom. Another area that is also in the arcade game. Tons of mad hatters hang around here. The boss is Dead Rooster.
Stage 8: Kagami no Kuni, the Mirror Kingdom. Considering it's a mirror world, this place is no surprise. It is, of course, a world of mirrors, populated by evil Alices. The boss is (rather bizarrely) Big Tortoise.
Stage 9: Jyoou no Kuni, the Queen's Kingdom. In the PC Engine version, the Queen's Kingdom is a gloomy world of lava and playing card soldiers. The boss is, of course, the Queen.