I believe games can be powerful, moving works of art. Games like Journey, Braid, and Bastion push the limits on storytelling, graphics, gameplay, and sound design in the gaming industry. But for every great indie game comes one that makes sure gaming stays firmly rooted in stereotypes and bygone tropes of yesteryear. Today that game is Super Mario Bros.
Now, I haven't played many games from Japan, as I think games developed by the West truly blaze trails and certainly do not flood the market with shoddy games that leads to industry crashes. But I have played some truly inspiring games like, Shadow of the Colossus and Ico, and I can report sadly that Super Mario Bros., originally made for some failure of a system called the Nintendo Systematic Entertainer (or something like that, the system tanked in the US), does nothing to inspire or astound like other Japanese titles.
Picture, if you will, a little Italian plumber, as he roams a rather bland landscape that developer Nintendo wants you to believe is really magical, and his quest to save the fairly droll looking Princess Toadstool from the fairly droll looking King Koopa.
I hope you absorbed all that, because that is the only exposition to be gathered from this cheerless game. It is as boring and sad as it is sexist and stupid. Pardon me, Nintendo, Disney called; it wants its movie script back.
Nintendo could have made great strides with the story. Given the fact that our plumber hero is so messed up that eating a 'Magic Mushroom' makes him grow twice his height and a 'Fire Flower' makes him shoot fireballs, they could have easily went with a plot revolving around a broken-down drug addict chasing the vision of what he believes to be the perfect woman, while his drug-addled mind produces hallucinations of maniacal mushrooms and killer turtles. It's such a waste it almost makes me cry. Almost.
The gameplay tries so hard to be Braid, but sadly, Braid it is not. The controls are simple enough: A makes you jump, the control pad moves you about, and if you hold down B while running, you can run; otherwise, pressing B while in possession of a Fire Flower causes him to shoot fireballs with which he can lay low his otherwise easy-to-handle enemies. And aside from dispatching them with fireballs, most enemies can be dispatched by jumping on their noggins. Immediately, Nintendo teaches you that flora and fauna should be killed instantly, impact on the environment be damned. I'm surprised PETA haven't cried foul over this yet. What's next, Nintendo? Dismembering the beloved Japanese tanuki so that our crazed Italian friend can use its skin for his amusement?
That aside, the game hardly shifts from its boring gameplay, occassionally slipping in an underwater stage or a lava-filled fortress to break the monotony, all the while you're lured further into the game by little golden coins of absolutely no value.
And Nintendo holds your hand through this disappointing trek, as multiple 1-Ups are hidden throughout the stage. As if this game wasn't easy enough, they make sure you see it to the end. But just as soon as you find yourself sticking to the monotony, the game turns 180 degrees and gives you an obstacle, like the King Koopa at the end of the fortress stage, that is staggering to overcome. It's times like these when they should have included something like Braid's time rewind feature. But no, Nintendo wants you to toil under its difficult game.
All of this would've been forgiven had the graphics and sound design been top-notch. Sadly, they both fall flat. Our protagonist, the enemies, and the environment all languish under a blocky, 8-bit aesthetic that is more digusting than it is nostalgic, as it tries to harken back to a bygone era. The game could have really used some bloom lighting, or some high dynamic range imaging....or perhaps something other than 8-bit graphics.
And to further drive the nail in the coffin, the game's sound design is about as primitive as a stone wheel. Composer Koji Kondo makes sure that the soundtrack is more annoying than it is endearing. Be prepared to be slowly driven insane by repetitious chiptunes that are hardly memorable. Multiple times throughout this game, I was pining for the acoustic stylings of Bastion or the orchestral score of Shadow of the Colossus, but instead I cranked up the volume of The Arctic Monkeys' discography on my iPhone while I played on.
Nintendo could have had a hit on their hands, had they followed in the footsteps of other indie titles, or even in the footsteps of other Japanese games. But sadly, the game is marred by sub-par gameplay with occasional difficulty spikes, a boring story, repetitious sound design and graphics that prove only to be an eyesore.
There is nothing I can say any more to dissuade you from purchasing this game. Spend your money on something else worthwhile, like Jon Blow's Braid, Supergiant's Bastion, thatgamecompany's Journey. For Christ's sake, donate your money to PETA, an honest and true company fighting against animal cruelty.
Just make sure you don't pledge your money to this miserable shell of a video game. God, could you imagine if this game was successful?! They'd probably make horrid sequels to it.
Okay, lower your pitchforks, people. This is a parody review, a what-if scenario centered around the premise that older games are being reviewed as if they were released in this day and age. I hope you all got a kick out of it, because the pretentiousness of the mock review really grinded my gears as I wrote it. Call it a labor of love.