Weekly Game Blather (Episode 4)

I’ll be doing a weekly round up of some of the games I’m currently playing, or the random thoughts about games bouncing around in my head.  I’ve been playing a lot of Mario games recently, so I’m going to do some mad comparing and/or contrasting, or other appropriate C words.

Mario is better known around the world than Jesus.  No, seriously, I read that somewhere, once, so it must be true. Regardless, he’s been in 250+ games to date, which might make him the most prolific video game character of all time, except for that one NPC who sells shields and healing herbs.

I’ve been playing a lot of Mario recently, and I’m starting to see some interesting patterns emerge. Today, I’m going to stare deep into the abyss of Mario and hopefully tear myself away long enough to recover my soul.

This is a picture of Mario floating around like a stupid, stupid balloon.  Pity him and all that he stands for.Mario 64 DS (Nintendo DS, 2004)

My favorite Mario game of all time is Super Mario World.  You could argue that it lacks the shininess of Mario 3, or that its environments are bland, but I really think it’s amazing.  The difficulty is perfectly balanced, the world maps are memorable and imaginative, the mechanics are fine tuned to near perfection…it’s great.

Mario 64 seems like the direct descendant of SMW.  There’s a pretty heavy focus on building a memorable world, and the platforming mechanics are precise without being jerky or overdone.  Exploration is key, and the worlds have a lot of horizontal and vertical space to play in.  There are moments of quick action mixed with moments of slower, precise movement.  It’s still not my favorite, but it’s pretty darn good.

Mario 64 DS is all of those things, except with more crap I don’t care about.  With all of the added junk (new characters to switch between, new powerups that don’t fit the theme of the original game, admittedly decent but still distracting minigames), I feel like that there’s a layer of doodads and shiny bits obfuscating (word of the day) the actual gameplay elements.

This will become a recurring theme later in this article.

I mean, it’s not a bad game by any means, but it certainly does not do anything to make Mario 64 look better.  In fact, now when I play Mario 64, it’s much easier to see all of its glaring deficiencies.

But that’s okay, because we’re moving on to…

Super Mario Galaxy 2 screenshot: It's like crack but less calming.Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Nintendo Wii, 2010)

So…Super Mario Galaxy was pretty rad, right?  I mean, you could run all the way around planets and fly in space and stuff.  That was cool.

Well, sort of anyway.  I mean, there were some annoying bits; those blue stars that you had to point at and float around to were sort of irritating after the first or second time.  And collecting all those little shiny star things felt sort of pointless, and really a waste of time.  But overall, not bad.

Really, I’d say it’s a descendant of Super Mario Bros. 3, if anything.  It’s got lots of neat powerups and cool level features, and all sorts of one-time events.  It’s pretty linear, though, and exploration is kept to a minimum.  The controls are really tight, but at times they feel a bit jerky.  It doesn’t feel like there’s a lot of inbetween space for, say, going full tilt and stopping immediately.

And now we come to SMG2.  At first, it appears to be much the same, except with a dull world map.  But the further I got in, the more I realized how much is standing between me and actually playing the game.

There’s so many things to consider: Collecting little star bits and coins and planning around the time it takes to recover from a spin and deciding whether to stomp on or kick an enemy because you get different currencies for each and which do I need more and is there any real reason that I’m collecting coins because it seems like they don’t actually serve a purpose and they sit there in an imaginary bank OH and the bank toad generates interest now and again but it’s negligible and all I want to do is jump on badguys and unrealistically orbit a small planet in space as a fat Italian Plumber.

Why do you keep trying to distract me from playing your game?  Everything is so SHINY and LOUD but none of it SERVES A PURPOSE.  Arrrgh.

Playing as Luigi is nice though; I can identify with a man whose whole world is against him.

New SMB WiiNew Super Mario Bros. Wii (Nintendo Wii, 2009)

If we’re keeping to our genetic metaphors, this game is like the abandoned child of Super Mario Bros 1 and 3 that was left in a dumpster and found by someone who didn’t really know what to do with a kid (probably Tom Selleck) and raised her to be kind of a jerk but not really all that smart.  It’s like they took all the good things about Mario (running real fast, stomping on things, smashing blocks) and covered it in that marshmallow cream stuff.  Now it’s all sticky and you can’t really feel the texture and man it’s just annoying.

The multiplayer is designed to make people hate each other.  Between constantly stomping on other people’s heads, accidentally killing them with shells (no really honey I promise it was an accident of course I wouldn’t take revenge for the time you pushed me into a piranha plant), or popping their little safety bubbles using a fireball while they are floating over a pit, nobody will like each other after they play this game.  It’s like there was a whole team of people who thought of as many obscure ways as possible of making the 2nd (and 3rd and 4th) player a total, absolute nuisance.

For some reason they also decided it was a good idea to make save points limited.  If you lose all of your lives, you have to start over alllll the way at the last save point.  For me and my wife, that could be several days worth of horrible burning death-by-spouse and slapstick domestic violence (man my arm is still bruised).

So yeah, I’m not a big fan I guess.

This quickly degraded into stream-of-consciousness weirdness, which was not what I intended.  But I guess that’s how passionate I am about games!  Or maybe it’s because I’ve given up on sleeping…anyway, follow me on Twitter or I’ll be sad.

  1. #1 by monkeyvault on December 13, 2011 - 3:24 PM

    I’m better at updating than you are.

    Sort of.

    Right now.

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